The Normal CornBelters (38-40) swept the Rockford RiverHawks (31-47) Sunday night at the Corn Crib with a 5-3 win. With the victory, Normal takes the season series against Rockford four games to two and remains in third place in the Frontier League West Division.
All of the scoring was done in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings as both squads received several strong frames of bullpen work. Four CornBelter relievers combined to allow just three hits in three scoreless innings. Rockford's bullpen took over to start the 6th and allowed only a walk.
Ryan Sheldon (W, 9-5) allowed nine hits and three runs while striking out seven in his six innings. Joey Gradney (L, 1-2) went five innings and gave up five earned runs on nine hits. Marshall Schuler (S, 9) closed out the game and the series by leaving the tying runs on base in the ninth.
Sheldon stranded runners on base in both the 1st and 2nd innings, but Rockford struck in the 3rd with a home run. Evan Button lined a solo shot out to right field, his third homer of the year, to give Rockford a 1-0 lead.
Normal collected four consecutive hits with two out in its half of the 3rd to take the lead 3-1. Tyler McNeely laced a single to left field and moved up to second on a passed ball. Brandon Newton took advantage and brought McNeely home with an RBI ground-rule double. Frank Martinez then legged out a triple to score Newton, and Mark Samuelson followed with a single that plated Martinez.
Rockford got a run back in the 4th, when a single and fielding error put Luis Parache on second with two outs. Carlos Dominguez then dropped a single into right field allowing Parache to come home for a 3-2 score.
The teams continued to trade runs, though, as Normal scored in similar fashion in the 4th. Asif Shah also singled and reached second on an error. Daniel Cox then recorded a bloop RBI single to right to make it 4-2 Normal.
Button and Matt Greener helped keep Rockford close in the 5th by knocking out two extra-base hits. Button tripled with one out and scored on Greener's double with two out, bringing the score to 4-3.
Normal went back up by two in the 5th against Gradney when Martinez crushed a solo home run with one out. It was his 13th of the season and put the game at its final score of 5-3.
The CornBelters will take Monday off and begin a three-game set at River City on Tuesday. Matt Mossey (1-1, 4.81) will start for Normal at 7:05 p.m. at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, Missouri.