Belters Bounce Back against Florence
NORMAL, Il - Looking to take an important road series in the middle-game with Normal, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, failed to string anything together offensively in a, 9-5, loss to the first-place in the West, Normal CornBelters on Wednesday night at the Corn Crib.
For the second time in as many nights, the Freedom (43-43) jumped in front of the Belters (44-39) in the early going. After back-to-back errors on the infield put two runners on in the top of the second, Ryan Rinsky connected on his first round-tripper of the year. The three-run shot off Normal starter, Nick Bozman (6-1), gave the visitors a, 3-0, lead, with each run of the unearned variety.
The Belters wasted no-time answering, plating a pair of runs in their half of the second off Freedom ace, Jordan Kraus (7-5). After Justin Fletcher was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Cam Adams worked a walk to score one, and Michael Baca grounded-out to second, making it a one-run game at, 3-2. The second frame started a string of five straight innings in which Normal would score at-least one run. Taking their first lead in the third, Sean Hurley followed a Derrick Loveless single with a towering two-run homer to left to edge the CornBelters ahead, 4-3.
Florence knotted the score at four in the top of the fourth, loading the bases after a pair of walks and a bunt single from John Price Jr. Jimmy Heck would cross home-plate when Austin Wobrock grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, one-batter later.
The game did not stay tied long, after two quick outs in the home half of the fourth, Baca touched 'em all on a solo-shot, reclaiming a Normal, 5-4, lead. The margin would swell to two in the fifth, thanks to an RBI-groundout from Andrew Godbold. When Hurley worked his second of three walks on the night, Kraus was pulled in favor of Eric Gleese, who struck out the first two-men he faced to keep the score at, 6-4. Kraus spanned 4.1 innings, surrendering six earned runs on seven hits, with a pair of walks and two whiffs in the loss.
The lefty, Bozman would exit after five complete, limiting the Freedom to four runs, one earned, on three hits. The converted starter walked four batters and fanned two on the way to his sixth win of the season.
The Belters would continue to score in the bottom of the sixth, getting a pair of RBI-knocks from Chirino and Godbold as the lead grew to, 8-4. With two runs batted in on the night, Godbold now has an even 70 in 2018. Normal would score their final run of the night in the eighth off Florence southpaw, Mike Castellani, using back-to-back doubles from James Davison Jr. and Chirino to command a, 9-4, edge.
The Freedom did not go quietly, plating a fourth unearned run in the ninth after a John Price Jr. single to left. With Rinsky on base after a walk, Price nearly over-ran his teammate in an attempt to stretch the single in to a double, as the latter raced back to first, Chirino sailed his throw to the bag into the stands, allowing Rinsky to score and Price to take third. Once Wobrock walked to put two-runners on with one-out, Caleb Lopes grounded into a game-ending double-play, giving the Belters a series evening, 9-5, win in the middle-game.
These two teams will meet in a winner take all finale at the Corn Crib on Thursday. The Freedom will hand the ball to two-time All-Star and right-hander Steve Hagen, with Normal countering with righty Jacinto Garcia. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. CT in Normal, IL.
The Florence Freedom are members of the Independent Frontier League and play all home games at UC Health Stadium located at 7950 Freedom Wayin Florence, KY. The Freedom can be found online at florencefreedom.com, or by phone at (859) 594-4487.
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