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Freedom fight back, but drop game, series, to Otters in Evansville Sunday

In its first day-game of the 2019 season, the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, could not hold on to a one run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.

That eventually leading to a, 6-5, walk-off loss to the Evansville Otters in the rubber-match of a weekend series at Bosse Field on Sunday.

After the Freedom (5-4) rallied for a pair of runs to tie the score at 5 entering the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Mordecai (1-1) took the mound looking to force extra innings.

His outing would get off to an inauspicious start when he plunked Hunter Cullen on his first pitch. David Cronin then laid down a sacrifice bunt to push the runner in scoring position, but everyone would be safe on the play as Mordecai attempted to gun the lead runner at second to no avail.

Manager Dennis Pelfrey brought in his closer, Johnathon Tripp to face Keith Grieshaber, who proceeded to pop-out to third baseman, Luis Pintor in foul ground for the first out of the frame. Ryan Long then gave the Otters (5-4) their second walk-off win of the weekend, ripping a base-hit past a diving Taylor Bryant at first to plate Cullen and send Evansville home with a, 6-5, victory.

Tyler Vail would earn the win on the bump, despite blowing his first save opportunity of the season a half inning earlier.

For the first time in the series, it was the Otters who scored first in the game, getting a Grieshaber solo-shot off Jackson Owens in the bottom of the first inning. 

The home team added to their lead in the third, when Dakota Phillips cashed in a Taylor Lane double with an RBI-single off lefty Mike Castellani as the score moved to, 2-0, home team. The run was charged to Owens, who went 2.2 innings in his Freedom debut, allowing two runs on five hits with one walk and a pair of strikeouts in a no-decision.

Caleb Lopes came through at the dish time and time again for Florence in the finale, first tying the score at two in the top of the fourth when he centered a Tyler Beardsley fastball for his first round-tripper of the season, a two-run laser to left that stalemated the game.

Beardsley was successful in bouncing back after a rough first start of the season, allowing just two earned runs on two hits over 5 innings, adding seven strikeouts and five walks.

With righty, Matt Rowland on the hill in relief in the top of the seventh, Florence took their first lead of the game without the luxury of a base-hit. Back-to-back walks of Connor Crane and Isaac Benard set the Freedom up before a wild pitch allowed both runners to move up ninety feet.

Once Danny Hrbek replaced the wild Rowland, Pintor hit a pop-up to shallow right, but saw Cronin fall down after making the catch, allowing Crane to scamper home on the sacrifice fly.

Still trailing, 3-2, in the bottom of the eighth, Evansville mounted a rally off Freedom set-up man, Brian McKenna. Long and Phillips took the righty deep in the inning, the latter a two-run shot after a Bryant error to as the Otters were suddenly up, 5-3.

That lead would be short-lived.

Looking to convert his first save of the season, Vail toed the slab in the ninth, yielding a Benard lead-off double to right-center. Pintor followed by scorching a base-knock to left, upping his hitting streak to nine games as Benard crossed home and made it a one-run game.

Pintor proceeded to steal second base to put the tying run in scoring position. After two straight strikeouts had the Freedom on the ropes, Lopes came through again, rolling a base-hit up the middle that scored the runner from second and knotted the score at 5 apiece.

Castellani, John LaRossa and Karl Craigie would all provide scoreless inning and a third’s in relief for the Freedom in defeat, totaling two hits and two strikeouts.

The Freedom have two days off before opening a three-game set with the Washington Wild Things on Wednesday afternoon at Wild Things Park.

Lefty Mike Castellani will take the ball for Florence opposite a TBD starter for the Wild Things with first pitch slated for 11:05 a.m. in Washington, PA.

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.

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