FLORENCE, Ky –The Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, started their nine game home stand in strong fashion on Wednesday night, utilizing a late grand slam in game one and dominant starting pitching to earn, 7-5, and, 3-0, wins, respectively, at UC Health Stadium.
In game one, the Thunderbolts (10-17) sprinted out to a quick start against Freedom (13-16) starter Jordan Kraus (2-2). Tyler Straub put the Thunderbolts up early, 1-0, with his first of three homers in the game, a solo shot to right-center. The Windy City lead expanded to three in the second inning courtesy a two-run blast from Ransom LaLonde that sailed over the wall in left. Straub connected on his second solo shot of the night in the top of fourth, giving the Thunderbolts a, 4-0, advantage.
Florence cut the deficit in half in the home half, however plating two after loading the bases. Ryan Rinsky started the frame with a walk ahead of back-to-back singles from Austin Wobrock and Freedom newcomer Ricky Ramirez. With one out, Keivan Berges smashed a sacrifice fly to center to put Florence on the board and Andre Mercurio followed that up with an RBI-single to pull the home team within a pair at, 4-2. Berges would come up clutch again in the fifth, driving in Mercurio from second with a single off Drew Peden (0-1) to make it a one run game. After the Freedom loaded the bases in the fifth, Ron Biga called on the right-hander Austin Sweet to face Jacob Wark. Wark greeted the hurler by uncorking a grand slam into the Freedom bullpen in left, his third home run of the season put Florence in front, 7-4.
Bach who was making his Thunderbolts debut, finished having thrown three innings of five-hit, two-run baseball, before giving way to Peden (0-1) in the fourth.
Straub made it a two-run game with his third solo-shot in the sixth, but Windy City would not score again. Kraus exited after six frames, allowing five runs all on homers, with five surrendered hits and three strikeouts.
Power-righty Jake Haberer entered out of the Florence bullpen and worked an efficient top of the seventh to earn his first save of the season.
Game two was a pitchers duel between the Florence starter Christian DeLeon (1-2) and Windy City starter Eddie Avila (0-1). Both pitched themselves out of several jams, but the Freedom offense was able to get to Avila for three runs. DeLeon held the Thunderbolts scoreless over five strong innings, surrendering only two hits and striking out four while only issuing two walks.
DeLeon faced a situation with runners on the corners in the second and third with less than two outs, but pitched himself out of both spots and put the Freedom offense in a position to win the game.
Andre Mercurio put the Freedom up, 1-0, in the bottom of the third with a sacrifice fly to center to score Ricky Ramirez. Florence added some insurance in the fifth when with two men on, Berges smashed a line drive off the top of the right field wall, scoring a pair as Florence raced ahead, 3-0.
Avila tossed 4.2 innings allowing three runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
In his Freedom debut, Sam Martin tossed a clean sixth inning before Johnathon Tripp emerged to slam the door in the seventh, tallying his second save of the season. The Freedom earned their third shutout win of the season with the, 3-0, victory and captured their first series since sweeping a doubleheader with Traverse City on May 23.
Florence and Windy City will square off in the series finale on Thursday night. Chuck Weaver will be on the bump for the Freedom opposite righty Jake Welch of the Thunderbolts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 at UC Health Stadium.