CLINTON — The LumberKings had a drought-snapping victory in their grasp Wednesday night. But, in nothing short of a cruel and abrupt change of events, utter chaos erupted and left the team on the bitter end of a competitive contest. Again.
Clinton took a 4-3 lead into the ninth and retired the first batter of the inning, but Quad Cities rallied for four runs to steal a 7-4 win on a balmy night at LumberKings Stadium.
The loss extended the LumberKings’ losing skid to four games, all of which were decided by three runs or less. Here are a few takeaways from the night.
Bats warm on frigid night
Naturally, Clinton pulled out the driver in the coldest, most unpleasant game of the young season, as just a couple dozen fans mustered the raw 40-degree conditions that felt half as much when gusts of over 20 mph sliced through LumberKings Stadium.
Clinton entered the contest with only one home run through six games, which ranked last among the 14 teams in the Midwest League that have recorded at least one (South Bend and Great Lakes are still on the schneid).
Both of Clinton’s blasts came in the first inning, and neither of them needed assistance from Mother Nature. Christopher Torres ignited the fireworks with a sharp drive to right field, depositing a ball into the Lumber Lounge on a 3-2 fastball to cut Quad Cities’ lead to 2-1.
Jerar Encarnacion maintained a sizzling .400-plus batting average with a towering fly ball to deep center that swirled around in the wind current before eclipsing the 20-foot wall located about 400 feet from home plate.
Prospects flash the leather
A pair of the organization’s most coveted draft picks, Connor Scott and Will Banfield, were lauded by scouts for their defense prowess leading up to (and after) the 2018 draft.
The duo both lifted eyebrows Wednesday night. Banfield, cited as the best defensive catcher of last year’s player pool, stylishly threw out a pair of baserunners. In the fourth inning, the 19-year-old retired a speedy Andy Pineda with a one-hopping throw from his knees that met Torres’ glove as Pineda slid into the base.
In the next inning, Banfield received a fastball on the outer third of the strike zone, popping to his feet and rifling the ball to second base with such rhythm that Torres had to (literally) wait for Jeremy Pena to arrive to the bag and apply the tag.
Quad Cities’ Scott Schreiber lined a ball to straight center field in the top of the sixth, sending the lanky 6-foot-5 Scott into a backward sprint, and the Florida product lifted his left-handed glove to spear the ball while crashing to the grass.
(Sure, Scott and Banfield threw the ball around LumberKings Stadium in the third inning, which resulted in Schreiber scoring from first base on an attempted steal, but …)
Roberson sharp in second outing
Clinton right-hander Josh Roberson was sharp in his second start of the season, allowing three runs (two earned) through five innings of work.
Roberson, who slid to the 12th round of the 2018 draft following Tommy John surgery, scattered five hits and fanned eight, many of which were the product of a sweeping slider that helped fool the River Bandits into five called strike three’s.
The outing marked the second consecutive strong outing from Roberson, as he tossed 5 2/3 scoreless frames in his season debut on April 5.