Florence Y’alls decided to build core late in season

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

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The Florence Y’alls were in good shape June 13 after taking the first of three at Sussex County moving to 17-10 on the season.

But the wheels fell off after that as the Y’alls finished 21-48 the rest of the way. Florence (38-58) lost the final five games of that road trip including a sweep at Tri-City. Two weeks later, an 11-game losing streak started and the Y’alls did not recover from it, finishing in seventh out of eight teams in the Frontier League West Division.

Florence missed the playoffs for the second straight year and finished in the same spot as last year in the division. The Y’alls finished 39-56 in 2022.

They sputtered down the stretch, losing seven of its last eight series and specifically struggled away from Thomas More Stadium in Florence, posting a 14-31 record on the road. The Y’alls showed some bright spots against the upper echelon of the league, but struggled against some teams at the bottom of each division.

“I thought we had a good approach going into it. But as the game went on, that approach faded and we started swinging at pitches we didn’t need to swing at,” said Chad Rhoades, Florence Manager. “You pay the price when you don’t stick with some type of consistency.”

Rhoades attributed a lot of the struggles to the youth on the team. He said the team decided to focus on building the core as opposed to bringing in older players. The players out of college had to get used to playing nearly every day as opposed to 40-50 games at the collegiate level.

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“It’s about finding the pieces that you want moving forward and I thought we did a good job of that,” Rhoades said. “I don’t believe the record is a reflection of what we should be and what we’re going to be. But time will tell obviously.”

Florence starting pitcher Edgar Martinez finished the season with a 8-9 record and a 5.38 ERA. Photo provided | Nick Theuerling

Opponents outscored Florence, 609-517. The Y’alls batted .266 as a team, good for eighth in the league. Craig Massey led the way batting .330 with newcomer Ed Johnson batting .308 and Brennan Price batting .300 with team-highs of 21 home runs and 74 runs batted in. Ray Zuberer batted .288 with a team-high 92 hits. Zuberer also finished fifth in the league with 43 stolen bases.

Rhoades tried to implement an aggressive plan on the bases and the Y’alls led the league getting caught stealing 48 times.

A number of newcomers showed a lot of promise. Tristin Garcia batted .288 with Zade Richardson and Brian Fuentes both batting .284, socking 12 and 10 home runs, respectively. Lane Hoover finished second on the team with 17 stolen bases.

Florence had a team earned-run average of 4.93. But the Y’alls saw Edgar Martinez (8-9) and Bobby Brabrand (5-11) finished fourth and 10th in the league with 111 and 100 strikeouts, respectively.

Brian McKenna led the team with five saves. He had his struggles down the stretch, but pitched a scoreless inning in the second game of the final series at Joliet.

“I think that last series at Joliet put the nail in the coffin unfortunately,” McKenna said. “The season was obviously not what anyone planned for. But maybe we can turn the page, get back to the drawing board a bit and came back next year strong. They have the pieces here for sure.”

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Injuries to Cameron Pferrer, Nate Florence and Sean Hughes did not help the Florence pitching cause, but Carter Spivey (2-1) came in an made some quality starts toward the end and Nick Ernst became a valuable arm out of the bullpen posting a .90 ERA along with Aaron Rund at 3.20.

Since moving to Florence in 2004, the team has three Frontier League runner-up finishes as the Freedom in 2012, 2017 and 2019.

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