Otters battle until end but fall short against Slammers

Ryan Long’s two-run home run in the ninth inning cut the deficit to one, but the Evansville Otters’ comeback effort fell short as the Joliet Slammers were able to hold on to a 4-3 win on Thursday.

Similar to Wednesday’s game, the Otters and Slammers were in a pitcher’s duel between Otters starter Austin Nicely and Slammers starter Matt Quintana.

The game was scoreless through the first four innings before Jimmy Roche hit a solo home run, his first of the season, off Nicely in the bottom of the fifth and broke the scoreless tie to give the Slammers a 1-0 lead.The Slammers would add some cushion to their lead in the bottom of the seventh.

Roche led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. After Nicely struck out Clayton Harp for the first out of the inning, he was pulled after walking London Lindley.

Otters reliever Kevin Simmons came on in relief and got Chaz Meadows to hit a grounder to J.J. Gould, but Gould’s throw was offline to Carlos Castro at first base. Roche scored from second base, giving the Slammers a 2-0 lead.

Jared Morello followed with a two-RBI single to extend the Slammers’ lead to four after seven.

In the top of the eighth with two outs, it seemed that Quintana was going to cruise for eight shutout innings, but the Otters showed their fight.

Jack Meggs and Rob Calabrese hit back-to-back singles with two outs.

Gould roped an RBI single to right field, scoring Meggs and giving the Otters their first run of the game.

With the score 4-1 Slammers heading to the ninth, Quintana stepped on the rubber to go the distance.

Hunter Cullen started the inning with a walk, and Long launched the first pitch from Quintana over the fence for his 11th of the season, cutting the Slammers lead to one.

With Long’s homer making the score 4-3, the Slammers pulled Quintana.

Ryan Koziol came in for another save but gave up a single to Mike Rizzitello to put the tying run at first base and allow the winning run to come to the plate.

Koziol would lock it down from there, getting a groundout and two strikeouts in earning his 14th save of the year.

Quintana was credited with the win, going eight innings and allowing three runs on six hits while striking out 11 in the game.

Nicely was given the loss, dropping his record to 3-7. The Otters starter had a quality outing going 6.1 innings, allowing three runs – two earned – on six hits and throwing four strikeouts.

The Otters will return home Friday for a three-game series against the Windy City Thunderbolts. First pitch from Bosse Field will be at 6:35 p.m.