09/03/2018 10:04 AM -
CornBelters conclude season with marathon victory
Belters finish 48-47, just out of playoff race
NORMAL, Ill. – The Normal CornBelters, presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, outlasted the Evansville Otters 8-7 in 13 innings to conclude the regular season on Sunday night at the Corn Crib.
The CornBelters scored a run in each of the first two innings on RBI singles from Derrick Loveless and Cody Erickson. Santiago Chirino scored the first run after doubling to the left center field gap, then left the game in the second inning as he moved into the lead for the Frontier League batting title for the second straight season.
The Otters answered in the fourth, converting a one-out walk into a run on a base hit by Hunter Cullen to cut the Normal lead to 3-1. Evansville then loaded the bases to lead off the fifth inning on a single and two walks, then tied the game on fielder’s choice groundouts by Ryan Long and Travis Harrison.
The Belters regained the lead in their fifth inning as Justin Fletcher singled to right to plate Andrew Godbold.
Evansville regained the lead thanks to wildness as the first three hitters in the sixth inning walked followed by a pair of two-out walks for a 5-4 lead.
Normal continued the back-and-forth in the sixth inning with a two-out, two-RBI single by Godbold to regain the lead at 6-5. The Otters converted a lead-off double in the seventh by Jeff Gardner into a run with a single through the left side by Taylor Lane for another tie at 6-6.
That ended the scoring until the 12th inning when the Otters scored the tie-breaker runner on a base hit to right field by Lane, and Michael Baca tied the game for the Belters at 7-7 on a single to score their special runner.
The marathon ended in the 13th inning when with one out, Chris Iriart looped a single to center field and special runner Cam Adams raced home to beat the offline throw.
Position players took the decisions, as Sean Hurley moved from designated hitter to the mound to pitch the 13th with two strikeouts and a walk to take the win. Taylor Hillson moved from shortstop to pitch the final 4 1/3 innings to take the loss.
The CornBelters finish the season at 48-47. The Otters take the fourth seed into the playoffs beginning Tuesday.
CornBelters manager Billy Horn said despite just missing the Frontier League playoffs, the season had many positives.
“We had the most guys picked up by Major League organizations. We just sent (pitcher) Jonathan de Marte to the Atlantic League. Moving guys along, that’s what this game is all about,” Horn said. “We had six All-Stars, and we had the most post-season All-Stars. For us to be eliminated two days before the end of the regular season and to be in it for so long was special.”
Horn said the team surged at mid-season while overcoming a number of obstacles. “We lost about six starters due to injury or being picked up by organizations, our starting catcher retires in the middle of a pennant race, and other guys just stepped up,” Horn said. “It’s a big testament to their character and I’m very proud of the way these guys played. I can’t thank these guys enough for making my first year as a manager a memorable one.”
Horn also expressed appreciation for the fans and the organization for their support. “I just want to thank everyone for a great first year here,” Horn said. “I want to wish everybody the best in the offseason. We’re going to come back with a good core of players. Our goal again is to get to the playoffs and win a championship. We came up short but it’s been one heck of a ride and I’m really proud of this organization.”
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