The Slammers had trouble getting the ball out of the infield in the sixth inning Friday night, but they had no problem scoring four runs.
Two walks, two infield hits and a throwing error helped the Slammers grab a 6-2 lead en route to an 8-2 victory over Windy City in the series opener at Joliet Route 66 Stadium.
Slammers shortstop Chaz Meadows got things going with an unlikely at-bat with the bases loaded.
“It was crazy,’’ Meadows said. “We just had to string it together. It wasn’t one of those innings where we’re all just getting big hits. It’s grinding out at-bats and finding a way to get on base.’’
With two outs, Meadows beat out a slow grounder in the infield that scored all three runners when the throw to first base wound up down the right-field line.
Alex Krupa’s bases-loaded infield hit gave Joliet a 3-2 lead before Meadows, the Slammers’ leading hitter, came to the plate.
“We’re not always going to get the big hits, but even the slow rollers we do hit, we’ve got to bust it down the line to get on, putting pressure on the defense,’’ Meadows said.
“You never know in this game,’’ Slammers manager Jeff Isom said. “We hit the ball hard in the gap, guys are catching it. We built this team with some speed, and that has definitely helped things out.’’
Right-hander Shane Bryant, in his third year with the Slammers (2-5), made his first start of the season.
“One of these games, you just have to grind it out and keep your team in it,’’ Bryant said. “Luckily, I was able to hold them off for five innings and (Matt) Sandoval came in and threw four shutout innings.’’
One reason Windy City (4-2) was atop the Frontier League East Division going into Friday’s game was the team’s 0.77 ERA.
ThunderBolts catcher Larry Balkwill pointed to past experience.
“The guys that have pitched are returning guys,’’ he said. “They know what they’re doing. And I think we caught a couple teams in that early season funk where they’re not timed up to pitches like they will be in July.
“We’ve gotten away with some stuff, but I also think our three main starters have come into the season ready and come out of the gate hot, really an emphasis on executing pitches and not missing a lot of spots.’’
Zac Westcott, Will Landsheft and Patrick Ledet have set the example for the pitching staff. Rookie Jaramy Jacobs (5 1/3 innings) made his first start Friday.
Isom saw his team win its second straight after losing five in a row to start the season.
“We got that monkey off our back,” Isom said. “Guys can relax a bit. They were trying to do way too much. I’ll correlate it to getting no-hit. All of a sudden it’s the fifth inning and you’ve got a no-hitter against you.
“Got to get a hit and guys start pressing. Then sixth inning, seventh inning, it gets harder and harder the later you go. If you can get a hit early in a game, it relaxes a team. Now with a win or two, maybe we can play a little looser.’’
The ThunderBolts took a 1-0 lead when David Oppenheim delivered a two-out, RBI single in the first inning. Will Krug’s sacrifice fly scored Tyler Straub, who had doubled, for a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
The Slammers tied it with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Travis Bolin blooped a double to score Danny Zardon, who had singled, and Ridge Hoopii-Haslam’s single drove in Bolin.
The second game is 6 p.m. Saturday and the series finale is 1 p.m. Sunday.
Tim Tierney is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.