Florence wins fifth straight series convincingly

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The Florence Y’alls needed a win Sunday in the series finale against the Gateway (Illinois) Grizzlies to claim its fifth consecutive series victory.

They got it.

Florence (17-20 overall) put another double-digit mark in the runs column pulling away from Gateway for a 15-6 Frontier League West Division victory. The Y’alls have won 10 of their last 13 games.

Florence has also won seven straight games when it scores double-digit runs after losing two such games against Tri-City (New York) and New Jersey in the third and fourth games of the season. The Y’alls moved to 13-10 against West Division opponents, 12-11 at Thomas More Stadium and 13-9 in June after going 4-11 in May.

Gateway dropped to 19-20 on the season

The Y’alls took advantage of nine walks, three hit batsmen and scored three unearned runs off five Gateway errors. Florence walked just three Grizzlies and yielded one unearned run off two errors. Gateway pitching has walked a team-high nine batters three times this year.

“It’s all about approach,” said Eric Minshall, Florence acting manager. “We have a belief system in our offense and those guys generally stick with the plan. When they do, we’re lights out. I’ve said before our line-up top to bottom is probably the best in the league and we’ve proved that night in and night out with these run-scoring games that we’ve had. Our approaches are phenomenal. I tip my hats to those guys.”

Outfielder Anthony Brocato belted two home runs for Florence going 2 for 3 with four runs batted in and two runs scored. His three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth put the Y’alls up 7-2. Defensively, Brocato had a diving catch in the top of the eighth to record the first out.

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“It was a team effort. We felt very confident and comfortable the whole day,” Brocato said. “We kept on tallying the runs. Everyone had big parts. As long as we keep swinging (the bat) one through nine, it was great.”

Catcher Andres Sthormes led Florence going 3 for 4 with a solo home run in the fourth to put Florence up 4-2, two RBI and three runs scored. Shortstop Alberti Chavez went 2 for 5 with an RBI and scored twice.

Third baseman Ray Zuberer and designated hitter Brennan Price had two RBI each. Price and first baseman Alex Ludwick scored two runs each. Ludwick came into the game in the first inning after Gateway starting pitcher Clint Freeman (0-2) hit Florence center fielder and lead-off hitter Axel Johnson with a pitch and Johnson had to leave the game.

Florence right-handed starting pitcher Jared Cheek (1-2) came off the injured list to make his first start since June 8 to earn the victory. He pitched five innings striking out one and walking two.

“It was better than I was expecting,” Cheek said. “Getting a lot of quick outs there really helped me with longevity in the long-run so I was really thankful for that. We just stuck to a plan and it worked out well.”

Alex Wagner pitched the next two innings for Florence striking out two. Gateway scored three runs with two out in the top of the seventh to trim the Florence lead to 9-6. But Wagner did finish the inning. Karl Craigie pitched a scoreless eighth and Cameron Pferrer a scoreless ninth for the Y’alls. Florence did not hit any Gateway batters.

“They know mistakes are going to happen. That’s part of the game,” Minshall said. “But they don’t let them avalanche or snowball. They put it away. They get right back to being a pro and make the next (play). It’s no problem.”

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Florence did struggle again with Gateway second baseman Trevor Achenbach. Achenbach finished 3 for 5 with two home runs, one double, three RBI and three runs scored. Freeman went 2 for 5 with a double, RBI and scored once with third baseman Jay Prather going 2 for 4.

Freeman (0-2) started the game and lasted just one inning. He walked three, hit Johnson and allowed two hits and three earned runs. Price singled in Ludwick and Chavez to give Florence a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the first.

“We were very patient,” Price said. “It’s a good feeling, especially when we were in the dugout. The ball really flies here. That’s kind of our mindset. We don’t want to let off the gas pedal. We want to score as much as we can to keep the pressure on the other team.”

But the Y’alls scored the final run of the inning not having to swing the bat. Freeman walked the next three batters. Price scored when Sthormes walked with the bases loaded before Freeman retired the next two batters.

Florence led 9-2 after five innings. Sthormes and left fielder Ian Bibiloni scored the last two runs off Gateway errors.

After Gateway cut the lead to 9-6, Florence responded with four runs to go up 13-6 sending eight batters to the plate. Sthormes singled and advanced to third on a Gateway error before Bibiloni walked. Zuberer then laid down a squeeze bunt to score Sthormes to give Florence a 10-6 lead and move Bibiloni to second.

After Ludwick walked, Chavez singled to right scoring Ludwick. Bibiloni then scored and Chavez wound up at third on another Gateway error to give Florence a 12-6 lead. Florence right fielder Harrison DiNicola then hit a sacrifice fly to center scoring Chavez to put Florence up 13-6.

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“You just need to get the team started,” Minshall said. “You get a run in and the guys start hitting. That’s all we needed to do there. The dominos fell the way we wanted to pretty much after that.”

The Y’alls added two more runs in the bottom of the eighth. Brocato homered to left and Zuberer singled to center scoring second baseman Ethan Stern.

Florence is in sixth place in the West Division only one game behind the fourth-place Grizzlies and the fifth-place Windy City (Illinois) ThunderBolts (18-19). The top three teams in both divisions make the playoffs this year.

Florence will be tested these next 17 games playing 14 on the road starting with a three-game series against the West Division-leading Washington (Pennsylvania) Wild Things (25-14). The first game is Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.

Florence Makes Trade with Lake Erie:

Florence traded catcher Casey Combs and pitcher Grant Hockin to Lake Erie (17-22) for veteran infielder Bryant Flete. In 36 games for Lake Erie, Flete batted .226 with four home runs, 12 RBI, 18 runs scored and two stolen bases.

Combs played in 20 games for Florence. He batted .288 with three home runs, eight RBI, scored 17 runs and stole one base.

Hockin (0-0) started Saturday for Florence in the 5-3 loss to Gateway at Thomas More Stadium. Hockin appeared in nine games with two starts. He struck out 24 in 20 and 2/3 innings of work to go with a 7.4 earned-run average.

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