Isaac Benard goes 3-4 with 3RBI, delivers game-winning single
FLORENCE, Ky– Needing a win to stay in first place in the West Division, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, delivered a thrilling walk-off winner, 7-6, to beat the River City Rascals on Saturday night at UC Health Stadium.
Florence (50-35) got off to a fast start, Scott Sebald offering a pair of shut-out innings in the first and second, before the Freedom scored twice in their second at-bat to take an early, 2-0, lead. Isaac Benard started the rally, reaching first on an infield single, but took second on the first of six River City (48-36) errors in the contest. Connor Crane hit next, laying down a bunt single that saw Braxton Martinez throw wildly to first, allowing Benard to score on the second error in as many at-bats. Standing at third after back-to-back ground-outs to second, Crane wound up scoring on a dropped third strike to Taylor Bryant, Florence capitalizing to the tune of a two-run lead after two innings. Adding to their advantage in the third, Benard continued a tremendous night at the plate with a sacrifice-fly to center, Ricky Ramirez Jr. crossing home-plate as the score became, 3-0, home team.
The Rascals jumped in front in their side of the sixth, plating five runs off a pair of Freedom pitchers. Sebald started the inning but was pulled in favor of Jared Cheek after the first two batters reached courtesy a single and walk. Cheek walked the first man he faced, loading the bases, but struck out the next two-hitters to put the Freedom on the brink of another scoreless frame. Andrew Penner would cash in a clutch two-run single, however, both runs charged to the starter, Sebald to close his line. Following a walk to Nolan Meadows that loaded the bases again, Martinez turned on a bases clearing double that propelled River City ahead, 5-3.
The lefty, Sebald would take a no-decision, his ninth of the year, spanning five innings and allowing two runs, both earned, on seven hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.
Answering immediately in their side of the sixth, Florence took their next lead courtesy a trio of unearned runs. Benard doubled to start the inning, igniting another near sell-out crowd at UC Health Stadium. Crane reached on catcher’s interference next, the third Rascals error putting runners at first and second. With one out and runners at second and third, Austin Wobrock tapped a come-backer to River City starting pitcher, Taylor Ahearn, the hurler attempting to get Crane out at third base following a brief run-down. Ahearn would throw wildly to third, however allowing a run to score and a play at the plate to occur as Florence looked to make it a two-run mistake. The throw to the plate would squirt away from catcher, James Morisano, allowing the run to score and Wobrock to cross-home plate himself as Florence jumped in front, 6-5. Two errors occurred on the play, bringing the Rascals total up to five after six innings.
Ahearn would exit after the gaffe, taking a no-decision following 5.1 six-run innings, only two earned, on five hits with one walk and five whiffs. Yeison Medina finished the frame for River City, rolling a double-play to end the rally. Tanner Cable would toss a clean seventh for the Rascals, who would use four pitchers in the middle-game loss.
After a scoreless seventh, Cheek came back to the bump for the Freedom to start the eighth, but saw Nick Anderson and Anthony Herrera reach via a walk and a single, prompting Freedom manager, Dennis Pelfrey to go to his closer, Karl Craigie (5-2) with runners on the corners and no outs. Craigie limited the damage, surrendering an RBI-single to Meadows that tied the game at six, but wiggled out of trouble, stranding the bases loaded. The southpaw closer, Craigie would go on to earn the win in relief, his fifth of the year, following a pair of shut-out innings in the eighth and ninth frames.
With Taylor Sugg (2-1) on the hill for a second inning in the ninth, Florence built their final rally of the night. Ricky Ramirez Jr. worked a one out walk, reaching second on a botched ground-ball to short off the bat of Caleb Lopes. Penner made the miscue, the sixth and final error of the night for the visiting Rascals. The mistake loomed large, Andre Mercurio moving each runner up ninety feet with a slow-chopper back to the mound. With Benard at the plate and the Freedom down to their last out, the hitter smashed a game-winning single up the middle, Ramirez Jr. crossing home as the home team prevailed, 7-6, in walk-off fashion.
With the win, the Freedom stay in first-place in the West Division, now 1.5 games up on the Rascals who will come back to UC Health Stadium for the weekend finale on Sunday afternoon. Florence will throw left-hander, George Faue (2-2, 4.50) opposite a TBD starter for River City, first pitch slated for 2:35 p.m. in Florence, Ky.
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.