The Quad Cities River Bandits’ back-and-fourth series against the Dayton Dragons continued on Saturday at Day Air Ballpark, as they split a rain-induced doubleheader for games 21 and 22 of the young season.
Quad Cities got off to a perfect start in game one as after just three batters, the Bandits found themselves on top 1-0 against Eduardo Salazar, thanks to back-to-back doubles from Nick Loftin and Nathan Eaton. Grant Gambrell took care of business in Dayton’s half by setting down the Dragons in order.
A Leadoff double by Michael Massey and walk from Jimmy Govern kept the Bandits’ offensive torch lit in the second and helped yield two runs; first on a Salazar throwing error and then on an RBI single from Loftin, pushing the Q.C. lead to 3-0.
Gambrell put the game on cruise control through the second and third by retiring the next six men he’d face in order for a perfect nine-up, nine-down going into the fourth before his day took a 180-degree turn.
After Salazar faced the minimum in the top of the fourth, the Dragons finally broke through the wall and saw Gambrell allow the first three men in the frame to reach. Dayton got its first two runs thanks to an RBI-groundout by Alex McGarry and then a throwing error on Loftin that allowed Michael Siani to score and cut the Bandits’ lead to one run.
The very next batter, Quin Cotton punched his team on top with a two-run dinger, his third of the year, that gave Dayton its first lead of the game at 4-3.
Out of the bullpen, A.J. Block helped end the Dragons’ rally in the fourth before working a scoreless fifth, but after Quad Cities failed to bring in a run with the bases loaded and no one out in the sixth, the left-hander surrendered an insurance run on Quincy McAfee’s two-out RBI double that pushed the score to 6-4.
Despite the heart of the Bandits’ order taking the bat in the bottom of the seventh, it was Pedro Garcia who dominated the seventh and went one-two-three to slam the door on the Dragons’ game one win.
Having not allowed a base runner in 1.2 innings of relief, Garcia (1-0) earned his first win of the season, while Block (0-1) was tagged with the loss in his River Bandits debut after allowing two earned over 2.1 innings in relief of the starter, Gambrell, who gave up four earned over 3.2 innings.
Game two was highlighted by starters Angel Zerpa and Noah Davis, who each blanked the opposing offense through four innings while combining to face just three over the minimum in that stretch.
The River Bandits were the first to strike and did so in the fifth when Massey’s double broke up Davis’s no-hit bid. After Govern struck out swinging, Logan Porter reached on an infield single before Victor Ruiz threw the ball into the dirt and past first base to allow Massey to score and give Quad Cities the 1-0 lead.
Zerpa worked around a walk and a single in the bottom of the fifth and set up Nathan Eaton to plate Tucker Bradley on an infield single for an insurance run in the top of the sixth.
As the first man out of the bullpen in game two, Will Klein faced the middle of Dayton’s order in the bottom half and struck out the side to record his first hold of the season before eventually giving way to Jonah Dipoto for the seventh.
Hernandez and Urbaez began the Dragon’s seventh-inning rally with a pair of singles that turned into Dayton’s only run of the game when Ruiz brought home Hernandez on an RBI groundout. But after Jacob Hurtubise was hit by a pitch, Dipoto was able to draw a pop-out from Siani before striking out Martinez looking to secure the 2-1 “w” and strand the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
After his fourth, five-inning, seven-plus strikeout performance of the season, Zerpa (2-0) earned the win for Quad Cities, while Davis (0-3) was the tough-luck loser after allowing just one earned with seven strikeouts over a six- inning start.
The River Bandits and Dragons will complete their six-game set with a Sunday matinee that will feature Asa Lacy (1-1, 4.15) and Graham Ashcraft (1-1, 5.74) who will face-off for the second time in the series at 1:05 p.m. CDT.