Luis Pintor and Mike Castellani lead Freedom to brink of sweep
FLORENCE, Ky– A masterful effort on the mound merged with timely hitting as the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, earned a two game lead on the Lake Erie Crushers in the Divisional Round of the Frontier League Playoffs Wednesday night at UC Health Stadium.
In contrast to game one, Lake Erie (0-2) enjoyed the first advantage, plating a run off Mike Castellani (1-0) in the top of the fourth inning, helped by a Freedom (2-0) error. Steven Kraft led-off the inning by reaching base when a soft line-drive popped out of the mitt of Florence shortstop, Austin Wobrock. Jake Vieth made the miscue hurt, knocking a run-scoring double down the line in right three batters later, landing the Crushers a, 1-0, lead.
Facing southpaw, Patrick Ledet, the Freedom responded immediately, stalemating the score at one after four. Following a single and stolen base by Isaac Benard, Taylor Bryant evened the affair, serving a line-drive single to center field. Ledet would exit having crossed the century mark in pitches after four innings, handing the ball to Logan Lombana (0-1) to start the bottom of the fifth. The lefty, Ledet, earned a no-decision, surrendering one earned run on four hits with one walk and five whiffs in the abbreviated start.
Lake Erie would take their second lead of the night in the top side of the fifth, thanks to a solo-shot from Aaron Hill that sailed over the wall in right field.
Trailing, 2-1, in the bottom half, Florence saw Luis Pintor unload on a solo-blast of his own, the line-drive clearing the second row of signage in right-center to knot the score at 2. The Freedom mounted one last charge in the seventh, forcing Lake Erie to use three pitchers in a four-run barrage that featured all nine hitters coming to the plate.
Lombana started the frame, but was pulled after Trevor Craport wore a pitch and was bunted to second by Wobrock. Right-hander, Augie Gallardo
With the Freedom ahead, 5-2, Seth Lucio entered the game with Florence down to their final out in the bottom of the seventh. Bryan DeLaRosa helped the Freedom tack on one more run of insurance, throwing wildly to second base ahead of Mercurio, who was on the move when Lucio threw a pay-off pitch to Benard. The pitch was ruled ball four, but the error allowed Caleb Lopes to score from third as the Freedom took a, 6-2, advantage.
In search of a complete-game, Castellani toed the rubber to start the ninth, pulled in favor of Karl Craigie after back-to-back singles to start the inning from Dale Burdick and Zach Racusin. Castellani was masterful, earning his first win of the postseason with a final line that featured two runs, one earned, on eight hits with no walks and eight punch-outs over 8 innings.
Craigie worked fast, stranding both runners on base en route to slamming the door on the two-run, Game 2 victory. The closer did not allow a hit and fanned one batter.
The series will now shift to Avon, Oh and Sprenger Stadium for Game 3 and the if necessary Game 4 and 5. First pitch of Game 3 Friday night is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET and will feature Freedom righty, Zak Spivy
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.