CRESTWOOD, IL – Brady Muller came within one out of a complete game shutout before the ThunderBolts hung on to defeat the Normal CornBelters 4-2 at Standard Bank Stadium Friday night.
The Bolts (25-27) struggled to hit with men on base throughout the night. They left at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first seven innings, including four in the first three, but they broke through in the fourth.
Charley Thurber tripled and the bases loaded on a hit batter and a walk before Johnny Eierman hit a groundball to the pitcher. The throw home was wild, allowing Thurber to score. When The CornBelters threw to second to catch Larry Balkwill, Taylor Smart, who began the play at second base, scored to make it 2-0.
They doubled that lead in the sixth without the benefit of a hit. With two outs, Coco Johnson, Tim Zier and Corey Bass walked and Cody Keefer was hit by a pitch to force in another run. A wild pitch scored the fourth of the night.
Through eight innings, Normal (23-29) had just four singles and only had two men reach second base. Muller struck out a career high eight, but allowed a single to Aaron Dudley to begin the ninth. With two outs in the inning, Dillon Haupt hit his league-leading 14th home run to cut the deficit to 4-2. Brian Loconsole ended the game by striking out Elvin Rodriguez for his first save.
Muller improved to 2-5 with his win and Charlie Gillies (1-1) allowed four runs in 5.2 innings for the loss.
The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the ThunderBolts and extends Normal’s skid to four games.
Game two of the series is Saturday night at 6:05. The first 500 fans 12 and younger will receive a full-length wood bat courtesy of KR3 Bats. Fireworks will follow the game. Jake Fisher (5-3, 3.95) will get the start for the Bolts against Normal’s Mike Schweiss (3-4, 2.78). The game broadcast can be heard on WXAV 88.3 FM and wxav.com.
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