For the second straight night, the Normal CornBelters could not hold a large lead and concluded a six-game road trip with a 9-7 loss to the Rockford RiverHawks on Sunday afternoon at Road Ranger Stadium in Loves Park, Illinois.
The CornBelters jumped on Rockford starter Matt Smith quickly with six runs on six hits, including three home runs. All of the offense came without the manager's presence, however, as CornBelters skipper Hal Lanier was ejected after the game's third pitch by plate umpire Dave Condon, who ruled Alvaro Ramirez had not been hit by a pitch. Ramirez eventually walked, then scored on the second home run of the season by Brandon Newton. With one out, Steve Alexander hit his 17th home run, and his first since July 18, to increase the lead to 3-0. Asif Shah then singled followed by a two-out base hit by Mark Samuelson, and Daniel Cox belted his second three-run homer in as many nights to complete the scoring, as the CornBelters led 6-0 after only a half-inning.
The Belters added a run in the third when Asif Shah led off with a walk and was doubled home with two outs by Daniel Cox, increasing his RBI total for the series to nine and the lead to 7-0.
The RiverHawks took advantage of some wildness to score three runs in the sixth inning. David Cooper was hit by a pitch to lead off, then with two outs, three walks and a single plus a passed ball scored three runs to end the night for Belters starter Tyler Lavigne. Reliever Jacob Liedka recorded a strikeout to end the threat with the bases loaded and preserve a 7-3 lead for the CornBelters.
The RiverHawks capitalized on the ineffective CornBelters bullpen in the seventh with five runs to take an 8-7 lead. David Cooper hit a one-out double followed by a Jake Eigsti walk, with a three-run homer by Jason James clearing the bases. With two outs, Liedka's night ended after giving back-to-back singles, but Carlos Dominguez greeted reliever Ben Paxton with a double under the left field fence to give the RiverHawks their first lead.
Rockford increased the lead to 9-7 after two were out in the ninth. Reliever Marshall Schuler walked Jake Eigsti, who went to third on a Jason James single and scored on a ground ball by Jason Greener that trickled up the third base line and stayed fair.
Joey Gradney (1-1) earned the win in a six-inning relief appearance. Brett Durand pitched a perfect night for his 16th save. Jacob Liedka (2-2) took the loss.
The CornBelters take their first day off in 24 days on Monday before beginning a six-game homestand on Tuesday at 7 p.m., beginning with the Traverse City Beach Bums.