After a completing a dismal stretch, when he went just 6-for-37 at the plate, with only one extra base hit (a home run on June 20) and five measly RBIs, River City Rascals slugger Phil Wunderlich has been on a tear this week, in a pair of series against the Southern Illinois Miners and Windy City ThunderBolts.
The former University of Louisville standout and Tampa Bay Rays draft pick already had seven hits in only 16 at-bats this week, with three homers, two doubles, and five RBIs, heading into Saturday night’s Frontier League tilt with Windy City.
But he really came up huge for the Rascals on Saturday, when he banged out three more hits, including his team-leading seventh homer of the season, and a season-high five RBIs, to lead River City to a 12-8 win over the ThunderBolts.
For the season, Wunderlich’s .248 batting average is a slight bit below his career average of .262, but he has driven in 32 runs this year, which is far and away best on the Rascals, and is second most in the entire Frontier League this season.
Teammate Johnny Morales also had three hits on Saturday to help lead a Rascal lineup that produced a season-high 16 hits, and saw only one of the nine members of the starting lineup get at least one hit.
Leadoff man Eric Williams walked three times and scored three runs, while Curran Redal, Jake Atwell, and Evan Crawford each had two hits and scored two runs apiece, as River City broke out for its highest scoring run output in more than three weeks.
Other key highlights included Atwell’s second homer of the season — a solo shot in the second inning — and Crawford stealing three bases to move into a tie for second most in the league this year with 15.
Starting pitcher Tommy Mendoza (4-3) picked up his second straight win, and the third in his last four decisions, by going 5 2/3 innings and giving up six runs and seven hits, with three walks and four strikeouts.
Fortunately for the former Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand, the Rascal offense scored single runs in the first and second innings, then backed that up with four runs apiece in the third and fifth innings.
Windy City starter Travis Strong only lasted two innings, but was not part of the decision, as reliever Colin O’Connell (1-1) took the loss, after giving up seven runs (only one earned) in 2 2/3 innings work.
With Mendoza leaving with two outs in the sixth, five relievers were needed to help River City get through the game, including closer Gabriel Shaw, who got the final four outs and even struck out one batter to finally put an end to the marathon three-hour and 49-minute game.
The Rascals and ThunderBolts are now tied for fourth place in the Frontier League West Division standings (Windy City is 16-23 and River City is 15-22), with both clubs 10 games behind the first-place Gateway Grizzlies.
The final game of the three-game set is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. on Sunday, with veteran righthander Casey Barnes (2-1, 3.60 ERA) making the start for River City, and fellow righty Dyllon Nuernberg (1-1), who was traded from the Rascals to Windy City on May 31, making his fourth start for the ThunderBolts.