Minor League Baseball: Slammers drop opener to ThunderBolts
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media May 17, 2012 11:34PM
Zach Mandelblatt, of the Slammers, drives in a run against the ThunderBolts at Standard Bank Stadium, Thursday, May 17th, 2012 in Crestwood, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 11:56AM
No matter how old he is or wherever he’s playing, Windy City ThunderBolts catcher Zach Aakhus is like most baseball players when it comes to one aspect of the season.
When it comes to playing on Opening Day, it’s hard to beat that feeling of taking the field.
“This is Christmas for us,” Aakhus said. “We wait all offseason for this, and I’ve been excited for it. I was like a kid in the candy store last night having trouble sleeping.”
Opening the Frontier League season Thursday night, the ThunderBolts defeated the defending league champion Joliet Slammers 4-2 at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood in front of 2,436 fans.
Through the 2011 season, Windy City was one of the few teams to have success against the eventual league champions, going 8-4 overall.
The success continued Thursday as the T-Bolts used a four-run sixth inning to erase an early deficit. It was Aakhus starting the rally with a RBI double down the third-base line. Chris Wade came all the way around from first to score the team’s first run.
Stranding five runners through the first five innings, Windy City finally was able to bring runners around. Aakhus scored on a Mike Mobbs fielder’s choice to tie the game at 2.
Bryan Burke’s bases-loaded walk forced in Billy Nowlin for the go-ahead run.
Mike Torres (2-for-4) capped the scoring outburst with an infield single that brought Matt Grosso home.
In relief of starter Stephen Sauer (52/3 innings, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts), the T-Bolts bullpen was lights-out. Four relievers combined to hold the Slammers hitless, allowing only a walk over the final three-plus innings. Former White Sox prospect Tyson Corley earned the save, pitching around an infield error in the ninth to close out the win for Windy City.
Andy Mee got the win in relief, throwing two-thirds of an inning.
The Slammers consistently were able to get runners on base Thursday but struggled bringing them around. Joliet stranded nine runners overall.
Zach Mandelblatt’s RBI single opened the scoring for Joliet in the top of the first, Abel Nieves (2-for-4) scoring from second. Erik Lis’ opposite-field RBI double in the third put Joliet up 2-0.