‘Hawks win walkoff; split spoils Southern's Sunday
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August 30, 2009 - LOVES PARK, Ill. – The Rockford RiverHawks provided a fitting ending to their first official day as spoilers.

The RiverHawks rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Southern Illinois Miners, 7-6, in extra innings in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader at Road Ranger Stadium. Doug Sanders (above, file) scored on Brandon Cohen’s ninth-inning sacrifice fly as the RiverHawks got their first walkoff victory in more than a year.

The Miners took the opener, 5-4, in front of a near-sellout crowd of 2,493, but a split of the doubleheader wasn’t enough to hang on to sole possession of the Frontier League West lead. Windy City beat Evansville, 7-6, to move into a tie with the Miners for first place with a week left in the season. The Miners had mathematically eliminated the RiverHawks from the race with a doubleheader split on Saturday.

Jason James homered in each end of the doubleheader, the 33rd and 34th of his career, to become the RiverHawks’ all-time home-run king. He was 4-for-6 in the doubleheader.

In the opener, the Miners jumped out to an early 5-0 lead against Rockford ace Kyle Wright. In the first inning, Joey Metropoulos singled in a run and Brad Miller hit a sacrifice fly. The Miners struck for three runs in the second after Wright had retired the first two batters. Jereme Milons singled, stole second base and went to third on an errant throw. Will Block singled him home and scored on Adam Hale’s home run to the right-field beer garden.

The RiverHawks rallied for three runs in the fourth inning, on a RBI single by Derrick Walker, a RBI double by Ross McCoy, and a run-scoring groundout by Alex Bardeguez. James cut the deficit to a run with a home run to right center to break Rich Austin’s old record of 32.

Steve Spurgeon (1-1) lasted five innings for the win. Jake McMurran pitched two hitless innings of relief for his third save. Wright (10-5) pitched his league-leading seventh complete game, but struck out a season-low two and walked four. He has lost his last four decisions and is winless in his last five starts.

In the nightcap, the Miners took another big lead, courtesy of a season-worst five errors by the RiverHawks. Rockford starter Jay Monti struck out a career-high 10 in six innings and did not give up an earned run, but he was tagged for five runs in his final inning after he had retired the first two batters. Monti walked Adam Hale with the bases loaded to force in the tying run and his next pitch was hammered by Metropoulos beyond the left-field fence. Metropoulos’ grand slam, his 29th home run of the season, gave the Miners a 6-2 lead. Monti was ejected at the end of the inning by umpire Bruce Doane for arguing balls and strikes.

Doane was forced to move behind the plate after home-plate umpire Bill Lopina was struck by a broken bat in the fifth inning and left the game.

Robert Sabates cut the deficit to a run with a three-run, pinch-hit, Texas League double to shallow right with two outs in the sixth inning. James tied it with his career-best 14th home run, a solo shot to right field with one in the seventh.

In the ninth, Sanders hit a one-out double just inside the bag at first base. Doane ejected Southern Illinois reliever Adam Revelette (0-1) after the southpaw hit James with his next pitch. Alex Rollin came on to face Walker, but after his first pitch was thrown to the backstop to advance the runners, Rollin intentionally walked Walker and Kevin Dooley came out of the bullpen.

Cohen popped an 0-1 pitch from to Milons in shallow center field. Milons' throw home to catcher Andrew Sweet was just short of the plate. Sanders avoided Sweet’s swipe tag to score the winning run.

Cohen was at the plate for the RiverHawks’ last walkoff win, Aug. 20, 2008. Cohen hit a grounder that Florence third baseman Kelly Hunt threw away for a two-run error in the RiverHawks’ 4-3. This season, the RiverHawks have suffered seven walkoff losses, including a 3-2 loss on June 25 at Marion.

Tyler Pearson (1-0) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to win in relief.

The RiverHawks are off on Monday. They visit Gateway for a three-game series Tuesday-Thursday. Each game is scheduled for a 6:05 p.m. start. The RiverHawks come home to finish the season with a Labor Day weekend series against Windy City. The homestand opens at 7:05 p.m. Friday with postgame fireworks sponsored by FatWallet.com.

The RiverHawks are members of the Frontier League, a 12-team independent professional baseball league in its 17th season. Advertising and ticket information is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Fans can also visit the RiverHawks online at www.rockfordriverhawks.com. Most games are broadcast live on ESPN 1380, and on the team website.


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