It’s no secret the Quincy Gems were in a season-long rut and desperately needed a spark. The team had lost seven straight and 12 of 13 overall.
Before the skid, the Gems were tied for first in the West Division of the Prospect League. After Sunday night’s 7-4 loss to the Danville Dans, the Gems were eight games out of first and 4 ½ games out of a playoff spot.
In an unexpected way, the team received some newfound energy Monday night at Danville Stadium.
The Gems led 13-2 heading into the top of the fourth inning. Bailey Montgomery, who hit a three-run home run in a seven-run second inning, was hit by a pitch to start the frame.
Two pitches later, Dans pitcher Nicola Mislinski plunked Riley Pittman in the back.
Both benches cleared and Gems manager Rick Fraire and Dans manager Eric Coleman had to be separated after physical contact.
Pittman was suspended by the league for one game, while both Fraire and Coleman were handed two-game suspensions.
“Embarrassing and disappointing” is how Prospect League commissioner Dennis Bastien described the altercation.
“While I might understand that emotions were high considering the score and the players hit by pitches in the inning, there is never an excuse for that kind of behavior exhibited by both coaches,” Bastien said.
The commissioner also explained the process the league took in handing down the suspensions.
“After reviewing the umpires report and reviewing video, I determined it was not a fight and that no punches were thrown,” Bastien said. “But I hope there is a clear message that none of this was or will be acceptable behavior.”
Pittman was ejected from the game for his role in the altercation and was handed down a one-game suspension “per PL rules for any player upon his first ejection,” according to Bastien.
Bastien was also asked by the Courier-Post if he felt Mislinski should have been punished for his role.
“There was no umpire report on him,” Bastien said of the Dans pitcher. “And I trust the umpire judgment at the time was correct.”
No further incident took place over the final five innings.
“The situation could have escalated quickly throughout the game,” the league commissioner said. “I commend the players on both teams for showing restraint and continuing the game without additional incidents with the lack of leadership from their coaches.”
The two teams play again on Saturday at QU Stadium.
“I trust that both managers realize the seriousness of their actions and I do not anticipate any further issues,” Bastien said. “There will be strong repercussions for any further altercations or continued aggression between these two managers and their teams.”
Montgomery mentioned the Gems have used the situation as momentum for the final stretch of the season.
“We are just looking to bring energy to the ballpark every day in any way possible,” the utility player said. “It’s unfortunate what happened, but that is just fiery guys who are competitive. It got out of hand for a minute, but it fired us up and hopefully we can keep the momentum to make a push towards the playoffs.”
Dinger in debut
Jake Hahn arrived in Quincy late Monday afternoon. The team was already in Danville for its contest against the Dans. So Hahn put in a little work at QU Stadium. The extra time paid off as the lefty smacked a home run in his Gems debut Tuesday night against Hannibal.
“He threw me two straight curveballs so I was sitting on a fastball,” Hahn explained. “But he threw me another one (curve) and I was able to sit back on it long enough to put a good swing on it and get it out of here.”
Hahn struck out in his first appearance and lined out his second.
“That first at-bat was definitely not what I wanted,” he said. “But I felt more locked in after my second at-bat. Overall it was a great night in a great atmosphere.”
Montgomery and Aaron Campbell have both seen their averages climb over the past week. Campbell is on a 13-game hitting streak where his average has climbed from .217 up to .338 for the season.
Montgomery is riding a five-game hitting streak with six RBIs, including home runs in back-to-back games. The utility player is hitting .277 on the year with three long balls and 12 driven in.
Strong in defeat
Jordan Bock tossed a season-high five innings in a relief appearance against Hannibal on July 6. The right-hander pitched the final five frames in the Gems 13-inning loss to the Hoots. Bock fanned a season-best eight batters and allowed just one run — a homer to Aaron Goecks in the 13th.
“I feel bad for him,” Hoots manager Clayton Hicks said of Bock. “That kid was dominant and pitched a heck of a game. I am glad we won but really feel for him.”
For the season, Bock sports a 2.28 ERA and has 26 punchouts in 27 ⅔ innings of work.
Cody Klotz’s batting average has been above .300 for the past 17 games. The Gems player is batting .340 on the season and leads the team with eight home runs and 34 RBIs. The lefty has hit safely in 23 of his past 25 games.
He’s also scored 33 runs and swiped 14 bases.