Pinch-hitting Jackson Pritchard launches three-run walk-off blast

FLORENCE, Ky.– In a game that favored the visitors early, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, swung things with one late swing of the bat, getting a pinch-hit three-run homer from Jackson Pritchard to send the Freedom to a, 5-4, walk-off winner over the Gateway Grizzlies in the opening game of a weekend series at UC Health Stadium on Friday night.

Trailing, 4-2, in the bottom of the ninth, Freedom (23-12) manager, Dennis Pelfrey, called on Jackson Pritchard to pinch-hit for Ryan Rinsky after Caleb Lopes and Luis Pintor got things started with a double to left center and a hit by pitch off Grizzlies (15-21) closer, Grant Black (0-3). Pritchard only saw one pitch, turning on a fastball to left that sailed over the wall as Florence emerged, 5-4, in walk-off fashion. The long-ball was the third of the year for Pritchard, all of which have proved to be eventual game-winners, or actual game winners like Friday. Taking the win in relief was newly acquired left-hander, Hayden Wheeler (1-0) who tallied two strikeouts in 1.2 clean innings of work in the eighth and ninth.

Florence started the scoring in the first, Isaac Benard leading off the frame with a single to center of Gateway starter, Lucas LanphereBenard then promptly stole second before taking third on a fly-out to center off the bat of Tyler Reichenborn. Ricky Ramirez Jr. stayed hot at the plate next, scoring Benard on a sharply hit single that made him 7-10 at the plate in his last three games as the Freedom took a, 1-0, edge.

The Grizzlies evened the score in the third, using an error by Freedom shortstop, Austin Wobrock to score Luke Lowery from second.

Again taking a lead in the fourth, Luis Pintor made it a, 2-1, Florence lead with an RBI-triple that plated Caleb Lopes from first after a two-out walk. The game started to lean in the Grizzlies favor from here, as the Freedom would not find another base-hit until the bottom of the ninth.

Gateway would rally to take their first advantage in the top of the sixth, back-to-back RBI-singles off Mike Castellani from Jamey Smart and Matt Brown getting the job done as the score became, 3-2, visitors. Castellani would get one out in the seventh before he was pulled in favor of right-handed reliever, Sean Watkins, who inherited a bases loaded situation with two outs to find. Watkins would deliver, fanning the first batter he faced before coaxing Smart into a pop-out to quell the Grizzlies threat. After the smoke cleared, Castellani landed his fifth quality start, tossing 6.1 innings and allowing three runs, two earned on nine hits with one walk and two strikeouts. The lefty would take the no-decision.

Tacking on an insurance run in the eighth, Zak Taylor made it a two-run Gateway lead with an RBI-single off Watkins as the score moved to, 4-2.

These two West Division rivals will square off in game two of this four-game wrap-around series on Saturday night at 6:05 p.m. The Freedom will throw ace right-hander, Tyler Gibson (3-1, 2.47 ERA) opposite southpaw, Jordan Barrett (1-3, 5.06 ERA) of the Grizzlies 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 Way in Florence, KY.  The Freedom can be found online at florencefreedom.com, or by phone at (859) 594-4487.

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