Florence splits two-game series with Gateway

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Now that they’ve been eliminated from Frontier League playoff contention, the Florence Y’alls are trying to finish the season on a positive note.

The Y’alls (34-51 overall) finished a few plays shy of sweeping the two-game series from the Gateway (Illinois) Grizzlies (40-46) in Frontier League West Division action. Florence finished 5-3 against Gateway this season.

The Y’alls won the first game, exploding for a 17-4 victory behind starter Griffin Baker’s stellar performance. Baker (4-1) pitched eight innings striking out 13 and walking one. Darrien Williams finished it off in the ninth inning striking out two and walking one for the Y’alls.

Florence chased Gateway starter Taylor Sugg (4-2) just five outs into the game. The Y’alls put up six hits, 11 earned runs, four walks and just two strikeouts on Sugg. The Grizzlies used five pitchers in the loss.

Florence outhit Gateway 15-5 belting five home runs, including four three-run blasts. Left fielder Ray Zuberer, designated hitter Brennan Price, third baseman Craig Massey, catcher Luke Harper, first baseman Bryant Flete and right fielder Rodney Tennie all had two hits. Price smacked two home runs for four runs batted in and three runs scored. Zuberer had a double and home run batting in four and scoring twice.

The Y’alls scored 11 runs in the top of the second to break open the game building a 12-1 lead. Zuberer, Flete and second baseman Ethan Stern all belted three-run home runs in the inning.

“That shows what we’re capable of whenever we go up there with the mindset of swinging at good pitches,” said Brian White, Florence manager. “They gave us some free bags and we made them pay for it a couple times. It’s fun to watch.”

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Florence added five more in the top of the top of the seventh to extend the lead to 17-2. Brice blasted his three-run home run in that inning. Gateway added one run in each of the eighth and ninth innings to make the final score.

The Y’alls jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second game Thursday. Tennie drew a hit by pitch with the bases loaded to score Stern in the top of the second before Stern hit a two-run home run in the top of the fifth scoring Price.

But a crucial play came in the top of the fifth when the Grizzlies cut the lead to 3-2 on a triple. Gateway tied the game in the bottom of the sixth and shortstop Abdiel Diaz singled in designated hitter Peter Zimmerman for the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh.

“A couple mistakes hurt us,” White said. “We had a couple close plays that we didn’t get done. We had a ball bounce off the pitcher’s mound and over the catcher’s glove. Those were two big plays there that we’re close to making and getting out of those situations. You have to find ways to make those plays to win ballgames.”

Edgar Martinez pitched the first five innings for Florence striking out seven, walking four and allowing just two earned runs. Cameron Pferrer, Kent Klyman (2-3) and Karl Craigie pitched one inning in relief each combining to strike out three and walk two.

Tennie went 2 for 3 to lead the Y’alls. Massey added a double.

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Florence heads to Evansville (48-38) for a three-game series. The first game starts at 7:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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