Connor Crane leads charge with three two-out hits, plates three runs
FLORENCE, Ky. — After a pinball-scoring affair, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, beat the Evansville Otters, 9-6, in the series opener Friday night at UC Health Stadium.
The Freedom (38-21) drew first blood in the bottom of the second inning on an Austin Wobrock two-run double off Austin Nicely (3-6), plating Ricky Ramirez Jr. and Brandon Pugh, who got things started with two singles. Connor Crane followed immediately with a two-out RBI-single, scratching Wobrock across to extend Florence’s lead to, 3-0. Florence was not done yet, as Ramirez Jr. hit a three-run blast over the center-field wall in the bottom of the third, pushing the Freedom lead to, 6-0, over the Otters (35-25). Scoring on the dinger were Caleb Lopes and Andre Mercurio, who started the frame with a hit-by-pitch and a single. Florence would scratch another run across in the third, thanks to a Crane RBI-double on a hit-and-run, Wobrock scoring from first as Florence took a, 7-0, advantage. .
David Cronin started the mid-game rally for Evansville with a double off Scott Sebald (4-1) in the top of the fourth. Keith Grieshaber then put the Otters on the board with an ensuing RBI-single as it became a six-run affair. Sebald would respond with a deceiving pick-off move to first that forced Grieshaber to take off for second, but Crane proceeded to throw the ball errantly in the back of the runner, allowing Grieshaber to take third base. Ryan Long made the miscue hurt, driving in Grieshaber on a ground-out to second that cut the lead to, 7-2. The torch was passed to Rob Calabrese in the top of the fifth, the designated hitter smashing a solo homer to left field that pulled Evansville within four. Still in the fifth, Grieshaber answered the bell again, plating one on a ground-rule double that put runners at second and third. Long would make it a one-run game, sending a two-run single up-the-middle as the score moved to, 7-6.
Brandon Pugh got things started again for Florence with two outs in the bottom half of the fifth, collecting his second single of the night before a Wobrock base-knock put runners at first and second. Malcolm Grady would replace Nicely on the hill, but was greeted by another Crane single, both runs scoring as the Freedom claimed a three-run edge at, 9-6. Both runs charged to Nicely, the southpaw finished with a final line 4.2 innings, eight runs allowed on ten hits, with two walks and three whiffs in the losing effort.
Sebald would take the win, hurling 6.1 innings that saw six batters score on six hits, while fanning four and walking two. Southpaw, Karl Craigie added a clean 1.2 innings of relief that featured a pair of strikeouts before closer, Johnathon Tripp slammed the door in the ninth. Tripp faced three hitters in finding three outs, converting his Frontier League leading thirteenth save of the season with one whiff in the, 9-6, victory.
Freedom ace, Tyler Gibson (7-2, 3.51) will take the ball in the middle game of the weekend set on Saturday night, the Otters countering with right-hander, Tyler Vail (3-5, 3.83). First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m. ET 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.