Hot offense totals 18 hits en route to 10-3 lead
FLORENCE, Ky– Riding a resurgent offense, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, landed a mid-week series sweep of the Joliet Slammers, clinching a playoff berth with a, 10-5, victory on Thursday night at UC Health Stadium.
A nip and tuck affair in the early goings, Florence (56-38) and the Slammers (39-54) traded runs in three consecutive innings to start the contest. It was the Freedom who plated the first run of the game off right-handed starter, Tyler Jones (2-4), Andre Mercurio scoring Luis Pintor with his first of three singles on the night.
Joliet evened the score facing lefty, George Faue (3-4) in the top of the second, Milton Ramos maximizing a Riley Krane triple with an RBI-single to stalemate the score at, 1-1.
Florence moved in front, 2-1, in their side of the second, Brandon Pugh scoring on a wild pitch after leading off the frame with a single and stealing second base. The first of two errors behind the plate by Tommy LaCongo helped Pugh reach third, the catcher’s throw to second on the runners stolen base attempt skipping away from shortstop Chaz Meadows.
The contest would be tied at two in the top of the third, thanks to a solo-shot from Clayton Harp, his fourth of the season.
Again moving ahead by one in the home half of the third, Ryan Rinsky counted up his sixth RBI of the year on a single to left, the one-bagger allowing Ricky Ramirez Jr. to touch home after walking to start the inning.
Continuing the trend in the top of the fourth, Joliet scored their final run off starter, Faue, using a Krane double ahead of a second RBI-single from Ramos to even the score at, 3-3.
The Freedom seized their next advantage courtesy a pair of RBI-doubles from Isaac Benard and Pugh in the bottom of the fifth, both runs charged to starter, Jones to close his line. Caleb Lopes and Rinsky scored the runs, reaching on a single and walk respectively as the score became, 5-3.
Jones would take the loss in the contest, spanning five-complete innings and allowing five runs, all earned, on ten hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Faue would step aside after six, logging a quality-start victory having allowed three earned runs on seven hits with no free passes and six whiffs. Jared Cheek would take over in the seventh, logging 1.2 one-hit, shut-out innings of relief before closer, Karl Craige took over with one out in the eighth.
Leading by a pair in the bottom of the eighth, Florence sent all nine-batters to the plate in a five-run barrage off right-hander, Cody Clark, opening up a, 10-3, cushion. Three straight singles started the frame, Crane lacing the third to score Pugh before Austin Wobrock crossed home-plate on an ensuing wild pitch. Ramirez Jr. would add a sacrifice-fly, and Rinsky a two-run double to complete the scoring. For Florence, all nine batters hit safely in the regular-season finale at UC Health Stadium, the home team totaling 18 knocks in victory.
The Slammers would not go down quietly, rallying to the tune of four straight singles off Craigie in the top of the ninth, the latter a two-run knock by Jimmy Roche to bring the score to the eventual, 10-5, final. With the win, Florence clinches their spot in the four-team, Frontier League postseason beginning next week, and finishes the regular-season, 29-19 in their home ballpark.
The Freedom will take the field next in Crestwood, Ill., when they close regular-season play with a pair of collisions at Ozinga Field with the Windy City Thunderbolts. Reigning Frontier League Pitcher of the Week, southpaw, Mike Castellani (9-2, 2.54) will toe the rubber in game one of Friday night for Florence, opposite left-hander, Kenny Mathews (4-9, 4.33) of the Bolts with first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. CDT.
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.