Gilberto Mejia went 4-for-5 with a homer, two triples and four RBI, but a seventh inning homerun from Robby Knapp lifted the Rockford RiverHawks to an 8-7 win over the Windy City ThunderBolts in front of 3,057 fans at Standard Bank Stadium, the largest crowd to witness an opening night in team history.
Rockford got on the board in the top of the first inning as with a run already across, Ross McCoy lined a single off the glove of Tyler Farrar in leftfield to score a pair of runs to put the RiverHawks up 3-0.
The Riverhawks would put up another couple runs on a second McCoy RBI single to give Rockford a 5-0 lead. Windy City would get on the board in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Gilberto Mejia recorded the first hit of the season for the ThunderBolts with a triple. After a Guillermo Martinez walk, Mike Sullivan picked up where he left off last season with an RBI single to cut the lead to 5-1.
Following a Rockford run in the top of the fifth to make it 6-1, Windy City opened up the offense in a big way in the bottom of the inning. Zach Aakhus led off with a double. Mejia came up and drilled a two run homer over the rightfield fence, cutting the lead to 6-3. Not content to stop there, Guillermo Martinez followed with a double. Mike Sullivan sacrificed Martinez to third. J. T. Restko came up and knocked home Martinez with a sacrifice fly to slice the lead to 6-4.
Once again, Rockford pushed across a run in the top of the sixth inning to make it 7-4. In the bottom of the frame, with one out Nate Hall and Zach Aakhus came through with singles to put runners on the corners. Mejia came up again and ripped his second triple of the game, scoring both runners, trimming the RiverHawks lead to a single run. Martinez followed with a groundout to short, scoring Mejia, tying the game at 7-7.
Knapp came up and promptly untied the game with a solo homer leading off the top of the seventh for Rockford to give the RiverHawks an 8-7 lead. The ThunderBolts had chances with multiple baserunners on in the seventh, eighth and ninth but were unable to cash in the tying or go-ahead runs.
Jay Monti (1-0) picked up the win for the RiverHawks while John Muller notched his first save. Adam Dominick (0-1) suffered the loss for Windy City.
The two teams tangle again on Friday with Stephen Flake on the hill for Windy City with Kyle Wright on the mound for Rockford. It is a Fill ‘R Up Friday with 12 oz domestic draft beers for just $1. For information or tickets, call 708-489-BALL stop by the Standard Bank Stadium ticket office or go to the team’s website at www.wcthunderbolts.com.