Normal Hangs on to Sweep Gateway
NORMAL, Ill. - It was quite the series for the Normal CornBelters (33-30) as they hung on to defeat the Gateway Grizzlies (28-40) 9-5 to earn their second sweep at home this season on Sunday Night and maintain first place in the West.
"The ball is starting to bounce our way right now. You got to give credit to our 24 guys. The All-Star break, we made some moves and knew we brought in the right guys. Made a couple moves last couple days and it's just about bringing in the right guys with the right temperament, said Manager Billy Horn. We have been through a lot this season. Starting off 1-6 then 3-9. Those 24 guys in there are pretty special. Obviously, we lose our top three starters our catcher, we keep just grinding and battling."
The Belters kept their trend of plating runs early. Derrick Loveless and Andrew Godbold knocked back-to-back home runs to give Normal an early 2-0 lead. Chris Iriart matched them both in the second and hit a solo shot to go up 3-0.
Gateway got to Nick Bozman (4-0) in the third for their first run of the game with two outs. Santiago Chirino erased the run and scored all the way from second on a passed ball to grab back the three-run lead.
In the fifth, Normal again answered the Grizzlies as they scored in their top half. After Iriart walked to load the bases, Loveless came in on a wild pitch. The Belters again took advantage of some Gateway miscues as Justin Fletcher came in on a dropped third strike to Cam Adams and Iriart scored on an error to give the CornBelters an 8-2 lead.
Bozman didn't have his best stuff in his 4th start of the season but battled out of trouble multiple times to stay undefeated on the season. The southpaw struck out six to tie his season high and lowered his ERA to 2.45, which is the best among starters.
Thomas Nicoll threw a scoreless sixth and picked up his 11th strikeout in 9.1 innings to maintain his 0.00 ERA in his first season as a Belter. Miles Moeller was next arm out of the bullpen and Gateway added two runs off him in the seventh, which required Anthony Herrera to come in to close the threat.
The sidearmer recorded two outs in the eighth, but Gateway made it a three-run game and Jonathan de Marte came into end the frame. Cam Adams made it 9-5 in the eighth after he scored on a throwing error from the Gateway third baseman. The former Richmond Spider completed the ninth to complete the sweep of Gateway.
"My job is so much easier because I get to rely on Pasky (Hitting Coach). He coaches third, works with the hitters and I got the pitchers, easy. Makes it a very easy game and I can manage the bullpen and the club. All we can do is put these guys in a position to succeed as best as we can and they have been doing it."
Normal earns their second sweep at home this season and now hit the road for six games starting with Washington on Tuesday and then Traverse City for a weekend series. The CornBelters return home on August 7th to open up a six-game homestand against Gateway and River City.
Images from this story
Chris Iriart of the Normal CornBelters
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