The Quad Cities River Bandits became just the second team in High-A to reach 60 wins on the season as they secured their fifth-straight victory against the South Bend Cubs on Tuesday night, taking game one of the six-game set 9-2 at Four Winds Field. Pitching ruled the first third of the ballgame and featured Anthony Veneziano and Bailey Horn combining to shutout their opposition through three innings, which included six strikeouts from Veneziano, the High-A Central’s leader in that category. It was South Bend who got on the board first though, as Bradlee Beesley led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo blast to give his team a 1-0 lead.
However, Quad Cities immediately responded in the top of the fifth and worked its first three batters of the frame on base against Horn, who paused for a mound visit before Tucker Bradley tied the game with an RBI single, plating Jake Means and reloading the bases with no one out.
On Horn’s very next pitch, Nick Loftin uncorked his first career grand slam onto the berm in left field and powered his team to a 5-1 lead with his eighth homer of the season.
After two of the next three Bandits’ hitters reached on a walk, South Bend turned to Tanner Jesson-Dalton who came on and struck out Eric Cole to end the rally.
Now working with a four-run lead, Veneziano gave up a leadoff single to Harrison Wenson to start the bottom of the fifth and eventually saw the Cubs’ catcher reach home two batters later, when Beesley registered his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice-fly.
Quad Cities went down in order in the sixth, but newly entered Mitch Ellis matched the Cubs with a clean one-two-three frame as well.
In the top of the seventh, Bailey Horn took over on the mound for South Bend, but ran into trouble after Bradley singled and Loftin walked to start the inning. After a passed ball allowed the pair to move into scoring position, Michael Massey drove a ball through the right side for a two-run single and pushed the Bandits ahead 7-2. A mound visit then settled down the left-hander, who struck out the side to limit the damage.
The River Bandits weren’t done adding on through and with Blake Whitney now throwing for South Bend, Maikel Garcia’s one-out single put a man on for Bradley who, on the first pitch he saw, smacked a two-run home run for his third hit of the night and made it a 9-2 game.
Quad Cities’ bullpen continued to shine in the late frames and after Ellis pitched two perfect innings, Garrett Davila faced just seven hitters in the final two to nail down a Quad Cities victory.
Veneziano (4-4) earned the win for the visitors with five innings of two-run ball and added in seven strikeouts, while Max Bain’s (3-7) fifth inning struggles led to his seventh loss of the year thanks to five earned on six hits and four walks over 4.2 innings.
Quad Cities will look to make it three in-a-row on Wednesday and will send A.J. Block (3-2, 4.13) for the start against South Bend’s Joe Nahas (2-1, 3.63). First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CDT at Four Winds Field.