Series-saving rally, three Washington ejections in second game highlight Y’alls third series win of season

G. Michael Graham
G. Michael Graham
Mike Graham covers sports for LINK nky

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Fans that attended the second of three games between the host Florence Y’alls (10-8 overall) and Washington Wild Things (8-10) on Wednesday may not witness another half-inning like the bottom of the eighth all season.

The important thing is the Y’alls rallied from down 4-1 to come back to win 6-4 then take series winning two of three for their third series win of the season and moved to 5-1 against Washington on the season. But the umpires ejected two players and Washington Manager Tom Vaeth in that inning adding some fireworks to the evening.

“Team baseball plays and I think the guys are finally bought in,” said Chad Rhoades, Florence Manager. “Calls went both ways. It comes down to pivotal situations. We took advantage of what we needed to take. It was a fun one to see the guys play together. They don’t give up. They keep grinding. They’re not selfish at-bats. They have plans to get guys on, move them over and look for that big pitch to drive them in. We did that in that one inning.”

Florence stands in fourth place in the Frontier League West Division just one half-game behind the Schaumburg Boomers (10-7). The Gateway Grizzlies (14-4) and Evansville Otters (12-6) hold down the top two spots in the division. The top three teams in both divisions advance to the playoffs.

The wild eighth began when designated hitter Craig Massey walked and first baseman Brennan Price singled off Washington relief pitcher Andrew Mitchell. That prompted Vaeth to bring in reliever Christian James (0-1), who wound up taking the loss. Left fielder Ray Zuberer singled off James to bring in Massey and cut Washington’s lead to 4-2.

Second baseman Andres Rios tried to land a sacrifice bunt. But James fielded it and threw to Ian Walters at third forcing Price for the first out. After James struck out shortstop Jeremiah Burks, Florence catcher Zade Richardson took a close pitch for a ball to force a full count then another one to load the bases. That is when Florence right fielder Sam Plash stepped to the plate and smacked one to right dropping in fair territory before hopping over the right field fence for a ground rule double scoring Zuberer and Rios to tie the game at 4-4.

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“I had two rough at-bats earlier in the game where I was late and my timing was off,” Plash said. “I didn’t really realize it. I talked to some guys in the dugout to give me some mentality stuff to work on. I felt better in my third at-bat. Then I finally felt myself in the fourth at-bat in a big situation just grateful.”

Vaeth said some things to home plate umpire Drew Taylor in a previous mound visit and had more choice words after that play. Taylor ejected Vaeth and third base umpire Mike O’Leary ejected Walters in several heated minutes before play resumed.

The Y’alls made sure the game-winning run crossed the plate once things calmed down. Center fielder Cole Brannen drew a walk before third baseman Brian Fuentes bounced one near the the third base line. James picked it up and Richardson appeared to score ahead of James racing to the plate. But the umpires called it a foul ball.

But Fuentes made sure that play did not matter. He smacked a full-count ball near the left field wall. It hit the chalk and bounced over the left field wall for another ground-rule double scoring Richardson and Plash to make the final score.

“It was actually real palpable, especially after the foul ball incident,” Rhoades said. “(Fuentes) grinded out that AB, kept it going longer then the on that double, I lost (the ball). (Florence pitching coach) Karl Craigie standing right next to me saw it come down fair. The foul ball territory is so short down there. The left fielder lost it. That was an exclamation point in the breakthrough that we needed to get that excitement to go out and finish it off. That was big.”

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After James got Massey to ground out, James had some choice words for Taylor charging home plate prompting Taylor to eject him. But his teammates and coaches pulled him away before he headed to the visiting clubhouse.

Brandon Mason (1-0) then shut down the Wild Things in the top of the ninth to earn the win. He struck out two and walked none in two innings after giving up two earned runs in the top of the eighth. The Y’alls made no errors behind starting pitcher Jake McMahill and reliever Michael Kirian, who pitched out of tough situations to give Florence a chance at the end. The Y’alls finished the seventh, eighth and ninth innings with double plays.

Washington outhit Florence, 11-10 but left 11 on base compared to eight for the Y’alls. Brannen went 2 for 3 to lead Florence at the plate and Zuberer went 2 for 4 with Massey drawing a team-high three walks.

Burks has provided a lot of spart defensively for the Y’alls. Burks has not had the easiest time at the plate. But in this game, he did single in Price with two out in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 1-1.

“It’s just everybody putting on good at-bats and getting the next guy going,” Burks said. “I think we’ve been doing that fairly well. It’s honestly just passing the stick.”

The Y’alls rallied again Thursday to take the series, 8-5. Florence scored four in the bottom of the seventh to go up 8-3 highlighted by a three-run Fuentes triple.

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The Wild Things again outhit the Y’alls, 15-11, but again left 11 on base compared to seven for Florence. Zuberer and Fuentes both went 2 for 3 and scored one run each. Zuberer had a double and batted in two with left fielder Marcos Castillo going 2 for 5 with two doubles and two RBI. Massey also doubled and scored twice with Price adding two runs.

Bobby Brabrand (1-2) pitched six solid innings to earn the win striking out 10 and walking two to go with three earned runs. Sean Hughes pitched the seventh striking out two and walking one before Kent Klyman pitched the final two innings striking out one and walking two giving up one earned run. The Y’alls made the game’s lone error behind them leading to an unearned Wild Things run.

Florence fell behind 6-1 in the first game Tuesday and nearly came back scoring five runs in the bottom of the seventh before losing 9-7.

Washington also outhit Florence, 10-9 in this game. But the Y’alls left six on base compared to five for the Wild Things.

Massey went 4 for 5 with two doubles, two RBI and three runs scored to lead Florence and Price went 2 for 4 with two RBI. Catcher Cooper Edwards added a double.

Mike Kickham (1-1) started for Florence striking out two, walking one and allowed six earned runs, six hits and two home runs in five inning taking the loss. Jestin Jones and Carter Poiry pitched two innings in relief striking out three each.

Florence plays a Frontier League East opponent for the first time this year taking on the New Jersey Jackals (8-9). Game time is 7:03 p.m. Friday.

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