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Home runs, dominant pitching leads River Bandits to Game 2 victory

The best-of-five High-A Central Championship Series heads back to the Quad Cities tied 1-1 following the River Bandits Game 2 win.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The River Bandits bounced back from a disappointing late-inning loss in the series opener and delivered a dominant 6-0 win over the Kernels in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday.

"We needed it," River Bandits manager Chris Widger said. "We came out and played much better tonight, and last night was not a bad game. The effort was good, but tonight everything kind of fell into place."

Quad Cities has tied the best-of-five High-A Central Championship Series 1-1, and now the team heads home with the final three games scheduled at Modern Woodmen Park.

Designated hitter Nick Lofton got the scoring started for the River Bandits with a one-out two-run homer in the top of the first inning, driving in shortstop Maikel Garcia who led off the game with a walk and stolen base.

That was just the start of a big offensive night for Garcia who added a solo home run in the top of the third to extend the Quad Cities lead, 3-0. 

The shortstop was a catalyst at the top of the lineup, reaching base five times in the win after going 0-for-4 in Game 1. Garcia finished going 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI, three walks, two stolen bases, and three runs scored.

"I've have had Michael for a couple years now I had him back in '19. And we know what he has," Widger said. "He's really good at shortstop and then what he brings to the plate, when he's working the count and fouling balls off and not striking out a lot, it sets the table for those guys (in the lineup) so we just look forward to him doing more of that."

That was more than enough offense for the River Bandits who used a quartet of pitchers to limit the Kernels to just three hits and no runs.

Left-hander Anthony Veneziano started for Quad Cities and allowed two hits, while walking one and striking out four over 3 2/3 shutout innings.

"I knew the balls coming out good today, I was a little juiced up, obviously, again, you know, it's been a long season, man. And we've been looking forward to these, these five games since probably June," Veneziano said. "Ya know, scoring two (runs) in the first (inning) is huge. I think that just kind of took the monkey off our back a little bit saying, 'Hey, you know, here we go. We're up 2-0', and you know, I got the ball in my hand. So it's my job to keep it that way."

He was a relieved by righty Nathan Webb who got the win after a strong 2 1/3 scoreless innings where he allowed one hit and recorded five strikeouts.

Zack Phillips (2 IP, 3 K) and Will Klein (1 IP, 2 K) sealed the deal over the final three innings of work without allowing a single baserunner.

After a day off tomorrow, the River Bandits and Kernels will play Games 3 and 4 at Modern Woodmen Park on Friday and Saturday.

Widger says the team will go about it's usual routine of rest.

"They can go home relax, and that's what we've done all year. We're not going to change anything," Widger said. "We're going to take the off day as an off day and then come out on Friday and be ready to go again."

Game 5 will also be played at the 90-year-old ballpark if necessary.

Quad Cities finished a High-A Central best 40-19 in home games during the regular season while Cedar Rapids went 31-29 on the road.

First pitch for Game 3 between the Kernels and River Bandits is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.