Four hits and two home runs from Colin Willis wasn’t enough for Gary in the rubber game on a cool Wednesday night at U.S. Steel Yard as the RailCats fell to the Texas AirHogs, 8-5, in 11 innings. Wednesday’s loss was Gary’s second straight extra-innings defeat and their seventh loss in their last nine games. Willis finished 4-for-5 with a career-high 12 total bases, three runs, three RBIs, two homers, a triple and a single.
Tied 5-5 entering the 11th, Texas (22-60) took the lead for good with three two-out runs in the top of the 11th. Yang Jin doubled with one out before Anthony Reda drew a two-out walk. Justin Byrd followed Haviar with an RBI double into the right field corner, giving the AirHogs runners on the corners. A wild pitch from Ryan Thurston scored Reda from third for the second run of the inning before a throwing error on a grounder hit to Andy De Jesus at shortstop brought home Byrd for the final run of the game.
Pete Perez (2-1) recorded the win with two scoreless innings of relief while Carlos Contreras (3) recorded his second save in as many games with a perfect bottom of the 11th. Ryan Thurston (4-1) was charged with his Independent Professional Baseball (IPBF) loss after allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits and three walks over three innings of relief.
Texas grabbed the opening lead for the third straight game of the series with an unearned run in the first inning. Byrd singled to center to begin the game before moving up to third on a sacrifice Li Ning, however, a throwing error from Curt Schilling at third base on the play allowed Byrd to advance to third. Javion Randle then bounced into a double play, scoring Byrd from third on the play.
Gary (33-49) quickly tied the game on the first of two home runs from Willis to begin the bottom of the second. Willis’ home run was his team-leading ninth of the year and the RailCats first of the series.
The ‘Cats took their first lead of the night with their second run in the third. Marcus Mooney doubled off the top of the left field wall to begin the frame before coming around to score on Daniel Gardner’s RBI single back through the middle.
The AirHogs tied the game at 2-2 with another run in the top of the fourth. Ning reached on a bunt single up the third base line to begin the inning before moving up to second on a sacrifice bunt from Randle. Stewart Ijames then flew out to right-center, advancing Ning to third. Chen Junpeng followed Ijames with a two-out, opposite-field RBI single, bringing in Ning to score.
Gary quickly regained the lead with another run in the bottom of the fourth. Willis tripled into the right field corner to begin the frame before touching home on Alex Crosby’s RBI single past the shift into right-center field.
Willis doubled the RailCats’ lead with the last of his two home runs in the sixth. Willis’ second home run gave him his third career multi-home run game and second this season.
Texas regained the lead at 5-4 with three runs in the top of the eighth. Li Xuhong reached on a bunt single up the third base line to begin the inning before moving up to second on a single from Byrd. Ning followed with an RBI single to left for the third straight hit of the inning, plating Xuhong from second. Two batters later, Ijames reached on a fielder’s choice, however a throwing error from Wilfredo Gimenez behind the plate on a throw to third hit Byrd in the helmet and skipped down the left field line, allowing Byrd to score and tie the game. Junpeng followed Ijames with an RBI single to left-center, bringing Ijames around to score the final run of the frame.
The ‘Cats quickly responded with a run in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game. MJ Rookard extended his career-high on-base streak to 14 games with a leadoff single to right before moving up to second on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Willis picked up his fourth hit and third and final run batted in with an RBI single to right.
Gary continues its six-game homestand on Thursday night at 7:10 p.m. vs. Milwaukee. RailCats rookie left-hander Seth Hougesen (2-2, 5.87) opposes Milkmen left-hander and former Major Leaguer T.J. House (7-7, 4.30) in the series opener.
Thursday’s game is another Thirsty Thursday and Geber Collision & Glass Thursday. Visit any Northwest Indiana Gerber Collision & Glass location for complimentary tickets to any Thursday RailCats game and enjoy our domestic drafts, select premium drafts, and hot dogs for $1.50, $3.00 and $1.00, respectively.
Ticket packages for the 2019 Gary SouthShore RailCats season are available online at railcatsbaseball.com and can also be purchased by calling the RailCats ticket line at (219) 882-BALL. The RailCats box office is open Monday through Friday.