QUINCY -- What a difference a day makes.
After suffering a 13-2 loss to Hannibal on Thursday night, the Quincy Gems bounced back for an 18-3 Prospect League victory over the Hoots on Friday night at QU Stadium.
The victory ended a five-game losing streak for the Gems (5-9) and evened the season series against Hannibal (5-9) at 3-3.
"Our focus needed to be better and tonight it was really, really good," Quincy manager Pat Robles said. "The focus was there. We have been scoring in the first and second innings and nothing the rest of the game and you can't have that. You have to put the foot on the gas and keep rolling and that showed tonight. We had 17 hits on 18 runs, that's going to win you a lot of ballgames."
The Gems started the game with back-to-back outs, but a two-out rally in the top of the first inning plated four runs to build some momentum. Drew Behling got things started with a triple to left field, then walks drawn by Ryan Ignoffo and Joey Polak loaded the bases. Kal Youngquist ripped an RBI single to bring home Behling, then Cade Schares slapped another single to score Ignoffo and Polak.
They didn't stop there. The Gems scored three more runs in the second, led by a two-RBI single by Polak.
Polak had the hot hand, going 5 for 5 with two home runs, seven RBIs and four runs scored and capping the effort with a line-drive grand slam in the ninth.
The 2016 Herald-Whig Player of the Year rejoined the Gems this week and made his debut Thursday, going 0 for 3 with two groundouts and a flyout, but Friday was clearly a much better outing for the Quincy Notre Dame graduate.
"Yesterday was my first game in about a month, maybe less than that, so in that first game, I was just trying to get some jitters out, make some adjustments and be on time," Polak said.
"Today I just went into it and said, ‘I've got my first day out of they way,' and I just started attacking pitches and it worked out."
While Polak and the bats were rolling, they were backed by a great outing from starting pitcher Sam Rainwater.
After allowing a leadoff single to Hoots right fielder Jared Wegner, Rainwater settled in and pitched five solid innings, allowing three hits and no runs while striking out nine with no walks.
"Basically, I just stepped off the mound and took a deep breath," Rainwater said of allowing the opening hit. "We were already ahead by four runs at that point so I just thought, ‘It's alright. We're fine,' and I got back on the mound and tried to fill up the zone."
For the Hoots, it was a struggle on both the offensive and defensive end as the bats that produced 29 combined runs in the previous two games couldn't figure out Rainwater's stuff.
"It was a big change in 24 hours. We're on the other side of it now," Hannibal manager Clayton Hicks said. "There are some things that are good and some things that were obviously really bad, but as I told the guys, we just need to keep pushing through and keep making adjustments."
Kyle Rosenfeld took the loss for Hannibal after allowing six hits and seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, while Wegner was 2 for 2 and Jordan Bailey had a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
The Hoots get a bit of a break to lick their wounds before returning for a doubleheader against Terre Haute on Monday.
"You get these two days off you have to take advantage of it," Hicks said. "Next week we have seven games in seven days and it's going to be a tough one."