LORENCE, Ky – With the series on the line, The Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, used a complete team effort to snap their ten-game skid and setup a series rubber match with a, 7-3, victory over the Southern Illinois Miners on Wednesday night at UC Health Stadium.
Steve Hagen (3-1) worked a quick top of the first, and Florence (9-13) wasted no time at the plate. In the bottom of the inning, Brandon Pugh reached on an error, and after swiping second to get into scoring position, Xavier Turner chopped a Robby Rowland (4-1) fastball into the ground at third base, plating Pugh as a second Miners (13-9) error gave Florence an early, 1-0, edge. In the bottom of the second, a Keivan Berges lead-off single and Craig Lepre walk setup a two-run double by Jacob Wark. Connor Crane followed with a sharp RBI-single to center as the Freedom lead grew to, 4-0.
The Miners got on the board in the fifth, when Kurt Wertz Jr. doubled and came around to score on an RBI-groundout off the bat of Marc DiLeo to pull the Miners within three.
The Freedom tallied another run in the sixth, however thanks to an Andre Mercurio double that paved the way to a Lepre RBI-single.
With the score, 5-1, in the top of the seventh, Southern Illinois chased Steve Hagen from the game after a Nolan Earley walk bled into three consecutive base hits and a pair of Miners runs as the Freedom lead shriveled to, 5-3. With Patrick McGrath on in relief and two runners on, DiLeo laid down a sacrifice bunt to push both runners in scoring position. McGrath responded by striking out John Holland before handing the ball to Jameson McGrane for the final out of the inning. McGrane slammed the door, striking out Chris Scura to secure a third quality start for Hagen, and maintain the two-run Freedom advantage.
Hagen finished with a final line that included six strong innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with two walks and one strikeout.
Rowland countered with six innings pitched while surrendering five runs, four earned on eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts in his first loss of the season.
Florence tacked on two insurance runs off Miners reliver Patrick Duester in the eighth. This came courtesy a pair of back-to-back singles by Mercurio and Berges which setup a second Lepre RBI-single and error by Duester who dropped the ball at first base while covering the bag following a Wark grounder to first.
Marty Anderson put the win on ice in the ninth, facing the minimum while picking up a pair of strikeouts as the Freedom prevailed, 7-3.
Florence and Southern Illinois will play the rubber game of the series on Thursday night. The Freedom will hand the ball to right-hander Jordan Kraus with the Miners sending out southpaw Billy Griffin. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 at UC Health Stadium.
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.