Aviators fly past Wild Things
The promotion at Consol Energy Park Thursday was Country Night.
In keeping with the theme, y’all can reckon it just wasn’t the Wild Things’ night.
It was, however, a good night for Dusty Robinson and just about every other batter in the Rockford Aviators’ lineup.
Robinson, Rockford’s right fielder, hit two homers and drove in five runs as the Aviators pulled away late and defeated the Wild Things, 10-6.
The good news for the Wild Things is the loss didn’t drop them in the Frontier League’s East Division standings because Evansville and Southern Illinois both lost road games. Washington and Evansville remain tied for first place with Southern Illinois one game back.
Robinson, who played at Fresno State and had 27- and 21-homer seasons in the Oakland Athletics’ farm system before being released and eventually landing with the Aviators 10 days ago, has three home runs in the series, which concludes tonight.
If the Wild Things want to win the series, their pitchers will have to figure out how to get Robinson and a few of his teammates out. Rockford outhit the Wild Things 10-4 Wednesday but the Wild Things managed to pull out a 4-2 rain-delayed win. Last night, the Aviators smacked 15 hits off five Washington pitchers.
Kenny Bryant and Kalaika Kahoohalahala each had three hits and two RBI for Rockford, but it was Robinson who broke the game open by hitting two-run homers in the seventh and ninth innings, after Washington had pulled to within 4-3.
“It was one of those nights,” said Washington coach Bob Bozzuto. “(The Aviators) do hit the ball. Sometimes you have to take your hat off to the opponent. Those guys were difficult to get out.”
Washington starter Shawn Blackwell (7-4) cruised through the first three innings before Rockford opened the fourth with four consecutive hits to take a 2-0 lead. Brian Bistagne doubled down the left-field line, Robinson singled, Edgar Corcino doubled to right field and Bryant blooped a single into left centerfield. Corcino made it 3-0 when he scored as Ryan Breen bounced into a double play.
Rockford starter Ryan Zimmerman (5-4) pitched in and out of trouble while throwing five shutout innings. He walked the leadoff batter of an inning three times and issued six free passes in 51/3 innings but the Wild Things couldn’t take advantage of his wildness until the sixth. Zimmerman walked three batters in the fourth but Washington left the bases loaded.
“Early in the game, we were given opportunities with the pitcher’s control issues but we couldn’t capitalize. That was the key to the game.” Bozzuto said. “We had to score when we had the chances.”
Zimmerman walked Ryan Kresky and C.J. Beatty to start the sixth, just as he did in the fourth. This time he couldn’t wiggle out of trouble. After Scott Kalmar flied out, first baseman William Beckwith hit his fifth home run since the all-star break, a three-run shot that cleared the wall just to the left of the green batter’s eye in center field and pulled Washington to within 4-3.
The Wild Things’ momentum didn’t last long as Robinson hit a two-run homer to left field off reliever Matt Purnell in the seventh to push Rockford to a 6-3 lead.
Robinson hit another two-run homer off Pat Butler in the Aviators’ four-run ninth that left Rockford with a 10-3 lead.
Robinson has been a good pickup at a key time for Rockford. Robinson joined the Aviators the same week they lost two outfielders to injury when they collided while attempting to make a diving catch in a game at Florence.
“Even with a lot of injuries and losing some guys, we’ve hit. We’ve just left too many runners on base,” Rockford manager James Frisbee said. “Our record (29-36) doesn’t define what kind of team we have.”
The Wild Things scored three runs in a crazy bottom of the ninth that included a run-scoring hits by Jose Dore and Beatty and two strikeouts with dropped third strikes that resulted in runners reaching base.
“We can still win the series, which is always our goal,” Bozzuto said.
Beatty threw out Kyle Dhanani at home plate to end the fifth inning. Dhanani tried to tag and score on fly ball hit to Beatty by Robinson. It was Beatty’s eighth outfield assist, which ranks third in the league.