Catcher Mike Gulino carted off field with neck injury in bottom of the sixth
FLORENCE, Ky. — In the midst of a four-game sweep, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, matched their season-high winning streak at six games, beating the Gateway Grizzlies, 4-3, Monday afternoon at UC Health Stadium.
The Grizzlies (15-23) started the scoring in the first inning on a Tyler Plantier single, scratching Shawon Dunston Jr. across from third to take the, 1-0, edge.
True to form in the series, the Freedom (26-12) answered in the bottom of the second, getting an RBI-double from Tyler Reichenborn that plated Luis Pintor, who singled to lead-off the frame. Brandon Pugh followed immediately, scorching a line-drive down the right field line for a three-bagger, plating Reichenborn to give Florence their first lead, 2-1. Hitting for the cycle in the frame, Connor Crane proceeded to unload a two-run homer to left-center as it became a three run affair. The round-tripper was Crane’s seventh of the season, tying him with Dash Winningham and Ryan Long for most in the Frontier League.
Bats fell silent on both sides for the next two innings, until Luke Lowery and Dunston Jr. hit back-to-back home runs off Frank Valentino (4-3) with two outs in the the top of the fifth inning, cutting the Freedom lead to, 4-3, the eventual final score.
Valentino tossed 6.1 innings allowing three earned runs on six hits, while striking out one batter and walking two. With the performance, the righty earned his seventh quality start in eight appearances on the season.
With runners on the corners and the Freedom on the verge of an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, Pugh took off for second on an early stealing in hopes of seeing Mike Gulino score from third during the rundown. Gateway would peel off the pickle between first and second in an attempt to gun a head-first diving Gulino at the dish. The play resulted in a collision between the base runner and Grizzlies catcher, Zak Taylor, leaving Gulino motionless at the plate for several minutes. A nearly twenty minute injury delay would ensue, Gulino eventually carted-off the field and placed in the back of an ambulance with a neck injury.
When play resumed, the Freedom bullpen continued to dominate opposing batters, having now allowed two earned runs in their last twenty-three innings of work. Zak Spivy, Ryan Mordecai, and Hayden Wheeler combined to span 2.2 shut-out innings surrendering two hits and no walks while striking out three. Wheeler found the last two outs in the ninth, stranding the tying run ninety feet away at third, as the southpaw earned his first save of the season.
Breaking out the brooms in the wrap-around series, the Freedom collected their first four-game series sweep in franchise history.
Florence will get back to the grind on Tuesday, opening a six-game road trip in the Chicago, Ill. area as they take on the Joliet Slammers and Schaumburg Boomers.
The Florence Freedom are members of the Independent Frontier League and play all homegames 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.