The Normal CornBelters, presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, began a six-game road trip with a battle but a losing note, falling 6-4 on Tuesday night to the River City Rascals at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, Missouri.
The CornBelters drew first blood as Alvaro Ramirez re-entered the lineup after missing four games after being hit by a pitch and promptly doubled to center. Brandon Newton then walked, and Frank Martinez reached on a fielder's choice. With two outs, Asif Shah walked to load the bases, and Mark Samuelson lined one through the box to score Newton and Martinez to give the Belters a 2-0 lead after their first time at bat..
The Rascals evened the score at 2-2 in the second inning on the eleventh home run of the season from Chad Maddox, a two-run drive to right center.
River City took the lead in the third when Jareck West led off with a triple and scored one batter later on a Doug Sanders base hit. Sanders came home to build the lead to 4-2 on a sacrifice fly from Joash Brodin.
Normal cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fourth when Ramirez picked up his third hit of the night, stole second and came home on Steve Alexander's team-leading 57th RBI, a base hit to center.
The Rascals pushed the lead back to 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth when Bobby Burk doubled with one out, went to third on a single and scored on a Doug Sanders sacrifice fly.
The CornBelters punched back in the fifth. Daniel Cox led off with a single and moved to third on a double by Mike Mobbs, then scored on an error to cut the River City lead to 5-4. The CornBelters nearly pushed the tying run across on a tough ground ball to shortstop by Frank Martinez, but he was called out on a disputed play that kept the tying run off the board and kept the score 5-4.
The Rascals threatened in the fifth with runners at the corners with one out, but a diving shoestring catch by Asif Shah on a Chad Maddox liner allowed the Belters to double off a Rascal to keep the game at 5-4.
The CornBelters lost their manager as the top of the seventh ended. Alvaro Ramirez was hit by a pitch on his lower leg, but was ruled to have swung at the pitch to end the inning, resulting in the ejection of manager Hal Lanier as he argued the call.
River City cushioned the lead to 6-4 in the eighth when Bobby Burk singled off reliever Ben Paxton, went to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on a single to right by Doug Sanders, his third RBI of the night.
The CornBelters put a baserunner on in the ninth with a Daniel Cox base hit, but couldn't move him. Josh Lowey (9-2) earned the win as Derrick Miramontes picked up his 15th save. Matt Mossey (1-2) took the loss, going five innings while giving up five runs on 10 hits, walking one and striking out three. The CornBelters stranded 14 baserunners.
The series continues in O'Fallon, Missouri on Wednesday night at 7:05 with right-handers starting on the mound for both teams, Tyler Lavigne (5-7, 3.27) for Normal and Don Lisi (6-1, 3.80) for River City.