Originally Posted Online: April 04, 2013, 10:51 pm
Last Updated: April 04, 2013, 11:30 pm

Bandits 'pretty good' in season-opening win

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By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

Photo: Kane County Chronicle
Jesse Wierzbicki of the Quad Cities River Bandits is safe at home as he collides with Kane County Cougars catcher Willson Contreras during their opening-night game in Geneva on Thursday.

GENEVA -- History labels baseball as the imperfect game, a sport where flaws can be found even when outsiders view a performance as a thing of beauty.

So it came as no surprise that the Quad Cities River Bandits would not categorized their season-opening 7-2 win over the Kane County Cougars on Thursday night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark as perfect. However, it came close to what they expected.

"It was pretty good today," QC manager Omar Lopez said.

Timely hitting, consistent pitching and flawless defense made the Bandits feel that way.

All three were on display as the Bandits (1-0) opened their run as a Houston Astros affiliate in impressive fashion. Eight of the nine spots in the order reached base at least once, the pitching duo allowed seven baserunners and the defense did not commit an error.

"We have a great team," said Bandits shortstop Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall draft pick who finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs. "It was a really good game for us."

A five-run second inning set the tone, giving QC all the offense it needed. Roberto Pena's two-out single to right field plated the first run. Two more scored when leadoff batter Teoscar Hernandez's apparent fielder's choice groundout ended in an error by the shortstop.

Correa capped the inning with a two-run double down the third-base line.

The Bandits added single tallies in the fourth and seventh innings, continuing a game-long theme of performing in the clutch. All seven runs scored with two outs.

"That's the approach those kids have," Lopez said. "They showed a very good approach at the plate. They took some good (at-bats). Hopefully, that can carry on the rest of the season."

With the offense providing a cushion, Vincent Velasquez and Joe Bircher turned in a brilliant performance. Velasquez's two-out, fourth-inning walk was followed by Rock Shoulder's two-run homer, but the duo allowed three baserunners after that.

Velasquez yielded three hits with five strikeouts in five innings to get the win. Bircher, pitching in the "piggyback" relief, earned a four-inning save as he retired the final 10 batters he faced.

The two combined for nine strikeouts and allowed five hits.

"He went out there and did his job, and I went out there and did my job," Velasquez said. "There's nothing more you can ask for."

On this night, the Bandits could not expect more.

"We have a great team," Correa said. "It was a really good game for us."

By all accounts, it was almost perfect.

"They were having fun, helping each other and supporting each other," Lopez said. "That was pretty good. I like that."

Extra bases: Velasquez surrendered a two-out double in the second, but Willson Contreras was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. ... DH Chase Davidson fouled a ball off his foot in the sixth, but continued his at-bat. Terrell Joyce replaced Davidson as DH in the eighth. ... Lance McCullers gets the start in tonight's 6:30 contest, with Daniel Minor backing him up in the "piggyback" system. ... In their first game as a Chicago Cubs affiliate, the Cougars drew a crowd of 4,962.