The River City Rascals (38-32) split a seven inning doubleheader against the Florence Freedom (43-26) Wednesday night and remain just one game back of a wild card spot in the Frontier League playoffs with 26 games remaining.
Florence notched a win in game one, 4-3, in extra-innings and then the Rascals offense scored five runs in the first three innings to power past the Freedom 5-1 in the latter half of the twin bill.
Coming into the night, the Rascals had one walk-off win on the year and they had two separate chances for their second in game one of the doubleheader Wednesday night.
Trailing by a run going into the final frame, center fielder Brandon Thomas stroked a leadoff home run to tie the game up at three against right-hander Steve Hagen.
After a groundout, Johnny Morales notched one of his four hits on the day to put the winning run on base for the Rascals RBI leader in Josh Silver.
However, Silver flew out and Morales was caught stealing to put the game into extra-innings.
In the first frame of free baseball, Rascals reliever Nate hoffmann recorded the first two outs but then back-to-back doubles, including a RBI double from Andrew Godbold gave the Freedom the lead once again and carried a 4-3 advantage into the home half of the eighth and sent out closer Pete Perez.
The Rascals worked Perez and threatened to score by tallying a pair of singles off the bat of Josh Ludy and Jason Merjano. Despite a runner in scoring position and one out, the Rascals failed to execute and a strikeout and a groundout snapped the Rascals four game winning streak.
Prior to the final two frames, the Rascals scored their first two runs on a pair of extra-base hits.
Clint Freeman drilled a RBI double in the second inning and Braxton Martinez hit his team leading eleventh home run in the bottom of the sixth. The long ball marked Martinez’s third game in a row with home run and he is the first Rascal to accomplish that feat since Alexi Colon did it in July of 2016.
Rascals starter Dan Ludwig took a no-decision and allowed just one run, earned, on five hits and struck out two.
The Freedom got on the board first in game two with a RBI groundout from Austin Wobrock but the Rascals starter Reese Gregory was stellar from there and his offense gave him five runs of support in the next two frames to earn a 5-1 victory.
Gregory’s outing was good for his team leading seventh win of the year and he finished with just the one run, earned, on six hits and struck out five in six innings of action.
“My approach tonight was to keep them off-balance,” Gregory said. “They are a good offensive team and they like to a lot of different things such as bunting a lot.”
His offense picked him up in the second and it was one of the Rascals hottest hitters as of late, Clint Freeman.
With Merjano on second and one out, the second year Rascal sent a ball over the center field wall for his fifth round tripper of the year and put the Rascals on top 2-1. The home run was his third since the All-Star Break and he has five hits combined in the first three games of this series.
The Rascals final three runs of the night came in the third inning against one of the top arms in the Frontier League up to this point in the year, Cody Gray.
Morales got the frame started with a double and small ball would allow him to scamper home.
Silver moved Morales to third with a sacrifice bunt and Kronenfeld drove him in one batter later with a sacrifice fly.
With two outs, Josh Ludy extended the inning by drawing a walk and scored the Rascals fourth run of the game on a RBI triple from Jason Merjano.
Merjano would dart home on the same play as shortstop Austin Wobrock fired the relay to throw to third base but it ended up into the dugout because nobody was there to cover.
Gray took his third loss of the year and allowed five runs, four earned, on seven hits and struck out six.
The Rascals win marked their 13th since the All-Star break and they look to win the four game series tomorrow with first pitch at 6:35 p.m.
“I think you can see the changes from the beginning of the year until now,” Freeman said. “We have tightened up some knots and we have beat some good teams, including the top team in our division the past couple of days. If we can get through this tough stretch of games with Florence and Evansville then it will give us a lot of confidence going forward.”