Moving out of the Frontier League West Division basement is a good start for the Florence Y’alls, who are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot.
Florence (28-41) took the series from the host Evansville Otters (37-31), winning 2-of-3 to pass the Lake Erie Crushers in the division standings and 9.5 games behind Evansville for the final playoff spot.
“People played their roles and batted with some aggression. I thought we had some really good (at-bats),” said Chad Rhoades, Florence Manager. “We left 17 on (Wednesday). But we threatened every inning. I thought we pieced those together early on the starters, ran the count up. Their bullpen was a little taxed. We took advantage of that. I thought we did a really good job playing together. The defense was pretty clean all-around. We did everything right.”
The Y’alls won the series with a tight 4-3 win Thursday. Florence took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth when first baseman Harrison DiNicola grounded out to score center fielder Ray Zuberer.
No one scored again until the top of the eighth when the Y’alls scored three times. With the bases loaded and one out, shortstop Ed Johnson singled to left scoring to score Zuberer. Then second baseman Jeremiah Burks came through with a two-run single to put Florence up 4-0.
“Throughout the week, I had a lot of opportunities with runners in scoring position and couldn’t get it done,” Johnson said. “So going into that at-bat, I just knew I needed to not hit a double play, but also get a ball out there for the team. I was looking for something in the zone on the first available pitch.”
Florence starting pitcher Carter Spivey earned his first win for the Y’alls this season. Spivey struck out four in seven innings, walking two and allowing just two hits.
“For me, it was one pitch at a time,” Spivey said. “Zade (Richardson) called a great game behind the plate and I had great defense behind me.”
Ernesto Huizar recorded two outs in the top of the eighth before Alex Theis took over to record the final four outs. Theis allowed a three-run home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth. But after hitting the next batter, Theis struck out the next two Otters looking to seal the win.
“I think (Florence pitching coach) Karl (Craigie) did a good job calming him down,” Rhoades said. “It was a situation where we needed it. He was the only guy in the pen hot so we were relying on him to get in the zone. There weren’t any wide misses or anything like that. He landed a couple sliders early, made them respect it, and forced the action on them.”
Florence outhit Evansville, 7-3. Burks went 2-for-4 with two RBI to lead the Y’alls.
Evansville rallied to beat Florence, 6-5 in the first game Tuesday. The Y’alls scored three times in the top of the first when Richardson belted a three-run home run before the Otters scored five in the bottom of the fourth to go up 6-3.
Florence outhit Evansville, 8-6 and scored an unearned run off the game’s lone error. Left fielder Hank Zeisler 2-for-4 to lead the Y’alls.
Edgar Martinez (7-6) took the loss for the Y’alls, striking out two and walking three in five innings. Carter Poiry pitched three innings in relief, striking out one and walking two.
Florence evened the series with a 5-2, 10-inning win Wednesday. Jake McMahill pitched six innings, striking out seven and walking four before Aaron Rund pitched the next two. Brian McKenna (1-2) pitched the next two innings before Ben Terwilliger struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th to secure the Y’alls win.
“Each guy tried not to do too much as far as being in the game,” Rhoades said. “We had that talk last week and I think we’re starting to see the results where guys out there are involved for the team. They’re not just individuals out there trying to do something on their own, letting the defense work.”
In the top of the 10th with two out, Zuberer singled in left fielder Lane Hoover to give the Y’alls a 3-2 lead. Richardson then doubled in Zuberer and third baseman Brian Fuentes to make the final score.
Florence also outhit Evansville in this game, 7-6. Both teams had one error. But the Y’alls scored two off Evansville’s error.
Florence takes on Windy City (30-38) starting Friday at 7:03 p.m. at Thomas More Stadium.