Freedom Split Doubleheader against Normal
FLORENCE, Ky - Entering the day holding the final wild card spot in the Frontier League post-season by .5 a game over their opponent, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, split a Wednesday double-dip with the Normal CornBelters at UC Health Stadium, but will need a little help to stave off Evansville from jumping Florence in the wild-card race.
The scoring started early in game one, as Normal (47-44) jumped out to an edge off Freedom (48-44) ace Jordan Kraus (8-5). With two outs, Derrick Loveless hit a towering fly-ball that drifted over the fence in left, giving the visitors the first lead of the game, 1-0.
Nick Bozman (6-2), who picked up a win against the Freedom in his last start, could not keep Florence off the board in the first. Caleb Lopes singled with one retired, and Skyler Ewing shot a double into the right field corner to even the score at one. The RBI was the first of two on the night for Ewing, who now has 52 on the season, second-most on the club. In the botto of the second, Bozman issued two walks to Jordan Brower and Taylor Bryant to begin the frame. Ryan Rinsky then attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but the Cornbelters got the force out at third, setting-up runners at first and second. John Price Jr. proceeded to deliver an RBI-double, pushing Florence ahead by one before Austin Wobrock offered a little more breathing room with a two-run single. Leading, 4-1, the Freedom added one-more run of insurance in their half of the fifth. Two batters after a lead-off double from Wobrock, Ewing knifed a liner up the middle, scoring Wobrock to make it a four-run game, 5-1. In the sixth, Kraus allowed a pair of two-out singles that forced Freedom manager Dennis Pelfrey to go to right-hander, Ryan Colegate. Colegate got Andrew Goldbold to pop out to first on the second pitch he threw in the inning.
Kraus tossed 5.2 strong innings, and surrendered only one run on five hits to go along with two strikeouts in the, 5-1, Freedom victory. His counter-part, Nick Bozman was yanked after a pair of innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits with three walks and a pair of punch-outs.
In game two, Freedom starting pitcher Steve Hagen (7-7) and Normal hurler Jacinto Garcia (6-5) were able to hold both offenses scoreless through the first four innings.
Hagen did not allow a hit until the fifth, when the CornBelters took their first and only lead of the night. Sean Hurley led-off with a single before Chris Iriart was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Justin Fletcher then executed a sacrifice bunt, pushing both runners in scoring position for Cam Adams. Adams delievers, shooting a single up the middle to plate one before Mike Baca made it a two-run game with a one-bagger of his own. Hagen continued on into the seventh, when, after giving up a two-out double to Cam Adams, Cody Gray emerged from the bullpen in relief. Gray worked a quick strikeout to close the book on Hagen, who finished having thrown 6.2 innings of two-run baseball, combined with four hits, four strikeouts, and two walks.
Jacinto Garcia was also removed after five, as Jonathan De Marte came out in search of a two-inning save. Garcia threw five shut-out innings, scattering five hits, with two walks and two strikeouts.
The Freedom had yet to be shutout at home in 2018, and that trend continued. In the ninth, Brower singled off De Marte with one away, and Taylor Bryant was able to work a walk to bring the winning run to the plate. After a Jacob Wark strikeout brought the Freedom down to their last out, Price Jr. came through again, lacing a double to left-center to make it a, 2-1, game and moving the tying run just ninety feet away. Now with two runners in scoring position, Wobrock ripped a sharp grounder to third, but Baca dove to his left to snare it, and got a pick on a low throw to first from Iriart as the Belters hung-on to the one-run victory.
The Freedom will look to capture the series in the 2018 regular-season finale at UC Health Stadium on Thursday. Florence will trot-out veteran righty, Chuck Weaver (5-4) opposite a TBD starter for Normal. First pitch is slated for 6:35 p.m. ET in Florence, Kentucky.
The Florence Freedom are members of the Independent Frontier League and play all home games at UC Health Stadium located at 7950 Freedom Way in Florence, KY. The Freedom can be found online at florencefreedom.com, or by phone at (859) 594-4487.
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Frontier League Stories from August 29, 2018
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