Published On: August 3rd, 2021

By Larry Larson

Behind 8 innings of two-run ball by starter Ben Vitas (Fr, Central Michigan), the Rivets defeated Traverse City 3-2 on Monday night at Rivets Stadium. The win snaps Rockford’s 12 game losing streak against the Pit Spitters that dated back to July 17th, 2019.

Vitas had to work against Traverse City sidearmer Cam Schuelke (Fr, Florida Gulf Coast), who entered his start with a 0.71 ERA. 

Rockford got to Schuelke in the first inning, as Shemar Page (Jr, Louisiana Tech) drove in Brandon Bannon (So, Illinois-Springfield) with an RBI single to put the Rivets in front 1-0. Schuelke and the Pit Spitters’ defense limited the damage there by recording two outs at the plate in the frame. =

Vitas allowed his first true mistake in the top of the 3rd inning, as Jake Arnold (R-Jr, North Georgia) belted a solo home run to left field to knot the game at 1.

The Rivets quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the frame, as Johannes Haakenson (Jr, Concordia-Wisconsin) scored on a line drive to third by Bannon that got through third baseman Mario Camilletti (R-Jr, Central Michigan). 

From that point on, both Schuelke and Vitas went on cruise-control, as neither arm allowed a run in the 4th or 5th inning. 

Traverse City once again pulled even in the top of the 6th inning on a Trey Yunger (Fr, Wofford) RBI double, but Vitas prevented further damage by retiring the next two batters in order to strand Yunger on third. 

Vitas then worked a 1-2-3 7th inning and was sent back out for the 8th. There, the righty ran into some trouble, as he allowed back-to-back singles to Evan Maday (Jr, Hope College) and Christian Faust (Jr, Grand Valley State). 

Following a mound visit from manager JT Scara, Vitas remained in the game and induced two fly ball outs to preserve the 2-2 deadlock. 

With Schuelke out of the game, Rockford capitalized on the Traverse City bullpen. Benjamin Wilson (So, Tyler Junior College) recorded the first out of the inning, but then issued consecutive walks to Bannon and Charlie Allison (So, Black Hawk College). 

Pit Spitters manager Josh Rebant quickly went back to the bullpen to bring on Coby Griener (Fr, Arkansas-Ft Smith), who entered the outing with a 1.93 ERA. Despite prior success against Rockford, the sidearm hurler floundered – issuing a walk to Page to load the bases. 

After a fielder’s choice with the infield in to record the second out, Brody Harding (So, Illinois) drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Rivets a 3-2 lead. 

The Rivets stranded the bases loaded to end the inning, but the drama didn’t end in the bottom of the 8th. 

Ryan Green (Jr, Concordia-Wisconsin) came on for the save in the top of the 9th, and retired the first two batters he faced to bring Traverse City down to its final out. 

‘Spitters slugger Chris Monroe (R-Jr, Illinois-Springfield) represented the team’s final chance, and he nearly made the most of it. The 6-foot, 5-inch, 250 pound DH crushed a ball off the center field wall, missing a home run by mere inches, and hustled to second base for a double. 

The game then fell into the hands of Camilletti, who Green struck out swinging to seal Rockford’s third straight win. 

With the victory, Rockford improves to 11-14 in the second half and 26-34 overall. The pitchers’ duel lasted just two hours and 20 minutes, Rockford’s second quickest contest of the summer. 

Phil Matulia (Jr, Louisiana Tech) and Tucker Shalley (Fr, Parkland College) will participate in the Northwoods League’s Major League Dreams Showcase in LaCrosse, Wisconsin tomorrow while the rest of the team receives a day off. 

The ‘Screws will return to action against Traverse City at 6:05 on Wednesday at Rivets Stadium. 

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