Florence posts two lopsided wins to earn series win against New Jersey

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

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The Frontier League series between Florence and New Jersey over the weekend at Thomas More Stadium had an average margin of victory of 15 runs.

The host Y’alls (12-9) took two of three from the Jackals (9-11) in the first series against a Frontier League East Division opponent this year. It marks the second straight series win for the Y’alls and fourth series win overall this season. Florence remains in fourth place in the Frontier League West Division, 3.5 games behind the Gateway Grizzlies.

The Y’alls outscored the Jackals, 30-25 over the three games, starting with a 13-2 win Friday. Florence collected 14 hits and exploded for five runs in the bottom of the fourth then added three in each of the seventh and eighth innings.

“The first two games were exactly the way we planned them out,” said Chad Rhoades, Florence Manager. “I thought we kept the momentum on our side. There were some big plays in the outfield.”

Florence had six extra-base hits total. Third baseman Brian Fuentes went 3-for-4 with a home run, double, two runs batted in and scored four runs. Shortstop Jeremiah Burks also went 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and scored twice. Center fielder Cole Brannen went 2-for-3 with three RBI and scored once with second baseman Craig Massey going 2- for-4, scoring twice.

“I feel like overall, this was a good week for us,” Massey said. “We saw a lot of good things from the whole team really. Your goal going into each series is to win the series. If you get a sweep, that’s great. But as long as you win the series, you’re on the right track. I feel like we’re getting some momentum going, some good vibes. We’re pretty happy with where we’re at right now.”

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First baseman Brennan Price and right fielder Ray Zuberer added doubles. Price drove in three and scored twice with Zuberer driving in two.

Florence starter Nate Florence (3-0) pitched another gem striking out 11, walking seven and allowing just one hit in five innings pitched. He gave up his first earned run of the year. Jestin Jones finished the game striking out six, walking none and allowing five hits and one earned run over the final four innings.

The Y’alls came back Saturday to take the series with a convincing 17-3 win, jumping out of the gate with seven runs in the top of the first inning. Florence added three in the bottom of the fourth and five in the bottom of the fifth.

Florence outhit New Jersey, 19-7 and scored two unearned runs off two Jackal errors. Eight Y’alls had two or more hits. Fuentes and catcher Zade Richardson led the way both going 3-for-5 batting in one and scoring two runs. Richardson homered and Fuentes doubled. Zuberer belted two home runs including a grand slam in the bottom of the fifth on his way to five RBI and Price led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run scoring twice. Burks batted in three with Massey scoring twice.

Edgar Martinez (2-1) recorded another quality start, striking out seven, walking four and allowing one home run, three earned runs and seven hits in six innings. Tommy Siemer pitched the seventh and eighth with Carter Poiry pitching the ninth, striking out one and walking one to finish the game.

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“I just try to be focused no matter what trying to get the outs,” Martinez said. “It’s about good preparation. I was going inside on them early and using my strengths. My curve was working.”

New Jersey turned the tables Sunday leaving town with a 20-0 win. The Y’alls used six different pitchers, but could not slow down the Jackals until Kent Klyman came on in relief late. Zuberer pitched the last two innings for the Y’alls with starter Mike Kickham (0-2) taking the loss, pitching the first two innings striking out one, walking three and allowing seven hits and eight earned runs.

The Jackals banged out 22 hits, including a home run and five doubles, scoring two unearned runs off two Florence errors. New Jersey went up 9-0 with six runs in the top of the third and added four in the top of the sixth.

Florence managed nine hits against New Jersey starter Nick Belzer (1-2). But they were all singles. Zuberer, Massey and left fielder Marcos Castillo had two each. Belzer struck out seven and walked three in the complete game. Florence had a couple runners picked off first base.

“Guys were loose and ready to play,” Rhoades said. “To me, it was the tone set in the first inning. There were a couple plays that got through. We obviously had to get the starter out because he threw too many pitches in the third. The psychology is not expecting to come in to a point of the game you’re not ready for. I thought some guys got caught off guard. You saw them spray some pitches around, fall behind in counts. One thing led to another. They kept that momentum the whole time.”

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The Y’alls travel north to face the Schaumburg Boomers (13-7) Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. for a three-game series before returning home on Friday to host Empire State.

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