FLORENCE, Ky – Looking to make it two wins in a row over a West Division rival, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, scored in five different innings on the way to securing the mid-week series with a, 12-7 victory over the River City Rascals, moving into second place on Wednesday night at UC Health Stadium.
In a pitching match-up of lefty relievers-turned-starters, Florence (38-36) was able to strike first against River City (38-37) hurler Jonny Ortiz (5-2). In the bottom of the first inning, Austin Wobrock worked a four-pitch lead-off walk, before going first-to-third on a Caleb Lopes single to center. Skyler Ewing then grounded into a double play, allowing Wobrock to score as the Freedom took a, 1-0, lead.
In the top of the third, River City tied it up off southpaw, Mike Castellani, thanks to a the first home run of the season for Trevor Achenbach, a solo-shot that evened the score at one run apiece.
Florence would respond, however striking for five runs in their next at-bat. Wobrock tripled to start the frame, and watched Lopes walk behind him. Ewing then rolled a sharp ground-ball to second scoring Wobrock, but would reach second base as Clint Freeman failed to catch the ball at first base. With runners now at second and third, Ortiz walked Brower after back-to-back strikeouts, bringing Jimmy Heck to the dish with the bases loaded. Ortiz was replaced on the bump by right-hander Chad Gendron, who on the first pitch he threw, saw Heck roll a ground-ball into left that plated two runs. Jacob Wark added an RBI-single one batter later, as the Freedom edge grew to, 6-1.
Ortiz only threw 2.2 innings, and was charged with five runs, two of which were earned, on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
The Rascals responded with a run of their own in the top of the fourth, as Kevin Suarez reached on a two out double with Achenbach connecting on a run-scoring single.
Florence has hit well with two outs all season, and they scored three runs with two dead in the bottom of the fourth. Ewing and Ricky Ramirez Jr. both worked walks to set the table for Berges, who went with an outside fastball and deposited it in to the Freedom bullpen for a three-run homer. The blast tied him with Ewing for the team-lead with 11, and pushed Florence in front, 9-2.
Castellani issued a walk to Mike Jurgella to begin the fifth, and after getting a strikeout, surrendered another walk to Braxton Martinez. With two outs, JD Hearn split the right-center gap for a two-run double that made it a five-run game. Freedom manager, Dennis Pelfrey, went to Eric Gleese (1-0) to finish the inning, and he did just that, getting a line-out from the first batter he faced to retire the side.
Castellani completed 4.2 innings and allowed four runs on eight hits to combine with three walks and two strikeouts in the no-decision.
Facing a new reliever in the bottom of the sixth, Wobrock greeted Tanner Wilt with his second base-knock of the night, a single to start the inning. A walk to Ewing put two on, and after Ramirez Jr. was hit by a pitch to load the bases, a fastball to Berges tipped off the end of the glove of Rascals catcher Gage West, reaching the backstop and allowing Wobrock to cross home-plate. Again with two outs, the Freedom plated two-more, getting a two-RBI single from Jordan Brower. Brower’s 36th and 37th run batted in of the season gave Florence the, 12-4, edge heading into the seventh.
Gleese faced only one batter in the top of the seventh, as Mike Jurgella turned on his ninth big-fly of the season to start the frame. Patrick McGrath would take over, getting two quick outs, but after back-to-back bloop singles, his night came to a close too. Florence turned to Sam Martin for the final out, and he promptly recorded a strikeout ahead of the seventh inning stretch.
The Rascals continued to chip away in the eighth, getting a lead-off single from Suarez before Achenbach was hit by a pitch. Martin would retire the next two batters, but John Price Jr. dropped a fly-ball to center off the bat of Clint Freeman, allowing two runners to score, and the Freedom lead to shrink to, 12-7.
With the score the same in the top of the ninth, Cody Gray, the fifth pitcher of the night for Florence, delivered a spotless three-up three-down frame as the Freedom secured the series win with the five-run victory.
Florence will try to sweep the series and win their fourth straight game on Thursday night behind right-hander Chuck Weaver. The Rascals will turn to Justin Garcia looking to salvage a game and snap their three-game losing streak. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 PM at UC Health Stadium.