O’FALLON, Mo. — Taylor Ard hit two of his three home runs of the game in a nine-run second inning with Pete Rose looking on from the third base coach’s box and the River City Rascals went on to win 16-2 over the Gateway Grizzlies. The Rascals’ largest crowd of the season was not only treated to a drubbing of their cross-metro rivals, but had numerous opportunities to get Pete Rose autographed memorabilia and even meet the Hit King.
The festivities kicked off well before the first pitch of the game on Friday night with a VIP meet-and-greet with Rose where he signed autographs, told stories and answered some questions for approximately 100 lucky fans.
Next came the ceremonial first pitch– of which there ended up being actually two. Rose dug into the batter’s box and got into his trademark batting stance rather than throw the pitch himself. He then addressed fans for about a minute at home plate. He spent most of his brief remarks imploring fans to support “these players as they chase their dreams of making it to the big leagues.” As the 74-year-old turned to walk off the field after his spiel he brought the mic to his mouth once again and got in a plug for the All-Star Game in Cincinnati on Tuesday “ON FOX!” during which he will be allowed to participate in the festivities.
After Rascals’ starting pitcher Tim Koons held the Grizzlies scoreless in the top of the first, Rose made his way out of the dugout to coach first base. Brian Hansen continued his torrid first half with a double off the wall and he was driven in two batters later off a double to nearly the identical spot by Danny Canela.
In the second inning, Rose moved across the diamond to coach third base, and the Rascals gave him plenty of chances to wave guys to the plate. Ard led off the inning with a line drive into the left field bleachers. The next eight batters reached base and five more runs scored to make it 7-1 and bring up Ard for the second time in the inning, this time with runners on first and third and Grizzlies starter Vincent Molesky having been pulled in favor of Dakota Smith. The result was still the same. Ard put Smith’s pitch even farther beyond the left field wall.
Ard’s third at bat came in the fourth inning and looked like even more déjà vu. Ard took Smith deep once again with Canela on base to cap the three-run inning and make it 13-0. Ard unsurprisingly leads the Frontier League in home runs with 16 this season. He will compete in the home run derby at the All-Star Game in Schaumburg next week.
Rose moved out to the gazebo in the Dog Pound in the fifth inning to sign autographs for the rest of the game for anyone willing to pay $50 for the memory. Rose, shadowed by a pair of security guards, signed only Rascals merchandise or Frontier League baseballs while sitting at a table for the rest of the game.
There were pre-signed baseballs ($45), bats ($200), hats ($60) and a base painted with a red number 14 ($200) for sale in the team store. In a silent auction, fans also could have won signed bats, autographed Rascals hats, a white and a black autographed jersey that Rose wore earlier in the night and a signed base identical to the one mentioned previously. Rose got $25 for every signature Friday night, on top of his appearance fee.
The Rascals handed out more than 900 bobbleheads to fans who bought special tickets to the game, and sold any they had left in the team store for $20 a piece.
Meanwhile, on the field the Rascals scored three more runs in the bottom of the fifth. Hansen’s double drove in Jackson Slaid; Hector Crespo’s single drove in Curran Redal; and Hansen scored from third during a 4-6-3 double play.
On the mound, Tim Koons continued his brilliant season. Coming off a one-run complete game performance in his last start, the Rascals’ starter went seven scoreless innings Friday before the Grizzlies finally got to him in the eighth. Ben Waldrip ended the shutout with a single that drove in Madison Beaird. Koons exited the game after walking Garret Vail to load the bases. He was charged with Ryan Soares’ run after he left, but it was unearned. Koons finished with a line of 7.2 innings, 8 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned and 4 strikeouts and is now 7-0 with a 3.11 ERA on the season.
The Rascals (25-23) and Grizzlies (16-32) play Game 2 on Saturday night starting at 6:35 p.m. Tyler Thompson will try to even up the series against Lucas Laster.