ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Rockford has had a slew of minor league baseball teams over the years…the Expos, the Royals, the Cubbies, the Reds, the RiverHawks and the Aviators. Only one of those teams won a league championship. That was the 2004 RiverHawks. I take you back to the night they clinched the title in my ‘Stateline Sports Memories.’
[STORY FROM SEPT. 10, 2004]
It was September 10, 2004. The scene was Marinelli Field. The RiverHawks were up two games to none against the Evansville Otters. One more win on this night and the Frontier League Championship would be in the bag.
Key players on that RiverHawks team were Frontier League regular season MVP Rich Austin, Rico Santana, Olmo Rosario, Aaron McEachran, Ben Fjelland and catcher Kevin Ciarrachi.
The manager was Bob Koopman.
It was a slugfest. The two teams combined for 26 hits and 23 runs. By the bottom of the ninth the RiverHawks led 14-9. Now they needed to pin it down. They did. Austin came over to snag a deep fly for the final out and the celebration was on.
After a massive celebration on the mound by the RiverHawks finally settle down Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee presented the championship trophy to the team to more cheers from a crowd of 3,319 fans.
“To make the playoffs, to win the division and to bring home the championship…we reached all of our goals,” said an ecstatic Austin. “There’s nothing better right now.”
“Us being so close the last two years, this year to have a chance to have the team stay together, a great chemistry,” said Kevin Ciarrachi.
“We’re real proud especially for our ownership and for the fans of Rockford,” said Koopman.
“We just had an awesome group of guys from the coaches, the manager, all the way through our players…a special group of guys,” said team owner David Ciarrachi.
“I’ll never for get this moment, or forget this team,” said Austin.