FLORENCE, Ky. — Cody Gray was electric on the mound as the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, clinched a berth in the Frontier League Championship Series with a 6-1 victory over the Washington Wild Things on Saturday at UC Health Stadium.
The trip to the league championship series will be the first for the Freedom since 2012.
Wild Things (1-3) leadoff hitter James Harris put Washington on top in the first at-bat of the game when he took Freedom (3-1) hurler Gray (1-0) deep to left field for a solo homer, giving Washington an early 1-0 edge.
However, Florence jumped in front in the bottom of the first, plating four off Wild Things southpaw Brian O’Keefe (0-1). Daniel Fraga walked to start the inning and advanced to second on Taylor Oldham’s sixth hit of the series, a double. After Collins Cuthrell flew out to shallow right, Andre Mercurio worked a walk to load the bases. Andrew Godbold then raked a single in to right field, scoring Fraga, but the ball rolled under James Harris’ glove in right, allowing two more to score as the Freedom took the lead by two. Jordan Brower followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Godbold from third as Florence moved in front, 4-1.
Washington would not score again, as Gray racked up nine strikeouts over six innings in the winning effort.
O’Keefe lasted only three and one-third innings before he was pulled in favor of right-handed reliever Tyler Garkow. Garkow impressed, contributing three and two-thirds scoreless innings of work.
With Aaron Burns pitching for Washington in the home half of the eighth, Austin Wobrock sparked a Freedom rally with a single. Garret Vail followed with a walk, placing Florence runners at first and second. With two outs, Oldham shot a ground ball up the middle that was stopped at second base by Kyle Reese, then flipped to second on a force play attempt, but Vail beat the ball to the base as Wobrock slid in safely at home, putting Florence in front by four. Cuthrell drove in Vail next with a flare that fell into right field, as the Freedom jumped in front by the eventual final score of 6-1.
Following two scoreless innings of relief from Tony Vocca, Freedom closer Pete Perez recorded the final three outs in order in the top of the ninth including one strikeout.
The Freedom will meet the Schaumburg Boomers in the Frontier League Championship Series beginning on Tuesday at Boomers Stadium. Both teams’ Game 1 starters are yet to be determined.
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.