Florence splits first two of home series against Gateway

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The Florence Y’alls (16-20 overall) have put themselves in position to win a fifth straight series splitting the first two games of the three-game home series against the Gateway (Illinois) Grizzlies.

Florence exploded for a 14-2 win on Friday at Thomas More Stadium. The Y’alls had eighteen hits while holding Gateway to only three.

Left fielder Ian Bibiloni led the way going 4 for 5 with two home runs, three runs batted in and three runs scored. Right fielder Anthony Brocato also homered twice going 3 for 4 with four RBI and two runs scored. First baseman Brennan Price went 3 for 4 with a home run, triple, four RBI and three runs scored.

Florence saw six different players record multi-hit games. Designated hitter Joe Lytle went 2 for 4 and shortstop Alberti Chavez went 2 for 5 with a double and scored twice. Center fielder Axel Johnson went 2 for 6 with one RBI and one run scored.

“I feel very confident in our offense,” said Eric Minshall, Florence pitching coach and acting manager. “We’re so capable of scoring seven, eight, nine, 10 up to 15 runs on any given night that we feel like we have a chance. Our motto is first pitch to last pitch. We’ve done that many times. We’ll string together a couple hits and one of the things I’ll say to these guys is ‘Here comes the avalanche.’ We do that a lot. But in a 96-game season, you’re not going to get 96 wins.”

Staring pitcher Jake MacMahill (1-0) earned the win for Florence pitching into the seventh inning. He struck out 10 and walked three. Karl Craigie, Bobby Braband and Joe Dougherty finished the game for Florence.

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On Saturday, Florence led Gateway, 3-2 after seven innings. But Gateway rallied to post a 5-3 victory.

Both teams had eight hits. But two left the yard for Gateway in the form of solo home runs from second baseman Trevor Achenbach and first baseman Clint Freeman to give the Grizzlies a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. Achenbach, Freeman and third baseman Jose Rosario led Gateway with two hits each.

Florence starter Grant Hockin pitched the first five innings striking out two and walking none. Hockin came into the game with an 8.62 ERA.

“It was great for Grant because he’s been transitioning from the bullpen to the starting rotation,” Minshall said. “We’ve been building him up for some time so for him to come out and have a good outing, we’ll take that every time out. He was at a pitch limit so we pulled him from there. But (it was a) great effort from Grant Hockin (Saturday).”

But Florence came back to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth off Gateway starter Steven Ridings, who had a 6.08 earned-run average coming into the game. Ridings hit Bibiloni to start the inning and Zuberer doubled to right center moving Bibiloni to third.

A crazy play happened next. Johnson grounded out to Freeman unassisted at first. Zuberer ran halfway between second and third forcing Freeman to run toward third. But Bibiloni darted home and scored with Zuberer winding up at third before scoring on a Chavez single to tie the game. Zuberer and second baseman Harrison DiNicola had two hits each to lead the Y’alls.

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“We want to make the first baseman in that situation make a play,” Bibiloni said. “Ray and I just stood our ground. I saw (Freeman) go toward Ray and props to my third base coach. He told me to go. I just went and was able to get in there safely.”

Kent Klyman came on in relief in the top of the sixth for Florence and retired one batter striking out center fielder Andrew Penner before left fielder Jay Prather walked and Rosario singled to left. The Y’alls brought in right-hander Darwin Ramos and he struck out the next two in front of 3,494 fans to keep the score tied even after Prather and Rosario pulled off a double steal. Ramos also retired the side in the top of the seventh finishing with four strikeouts.

“It’s nice to have a good home crowd here on a Saturday night,” Ramos said. “It’s never been a problem for me whether many people are in the stands or not. I have to get what I need to do to succeed and do great at my job.”

Sam Gardner (4-1) took over for Gateway in the bottom of the seventh. Zuberer hit a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right field to put Florence up 3-2.

But the Grizzlies scored three times off Braband in the top of the eighth. Braband struck out pinch hitter Cam Touchette. But the next four runners reached and runners moved up twice on wild pitches. Florence brought in Joe Dougherty to minimize the damage.

“Bobby’s a true competitor. He’s been in these situations many, many times and he usually comes out the victor,” Minshall said. “Even though they say you can’t win them all, there is something to be learned from that. I have full faith and confidence in Bobby in the seventh, eighth or ninth. You have nights like this where you have a seeing-eye single and the next thing you know, you have a run score. That’s baseball and you have to live with it.”

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Florence did not put anyone on base in the eighth or ninth innings. Reed Hayes retired the side for Gateway in the bottom of the ninth.

After finishing the Gateway series (game time Sunday is 1:05 p.m.), Florence hits the road for 12 of the next 17 games. The Y’alls face the Washington (Pennsylvania) Wild Things in a three-game series on the road starting Tuesday at 6:32 p.m.

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