O’FALLON, Mo. — The Florence Freedom scored seven runs in the final two innings to blow past the River City Rascals 11-4 in the series opener. Timely hitting by the Freedom (9-13), accented by some costly, inning-extending mistakes by the Rascals (12-10) led to the third loss in four games for River City.
The game was tied 4-4 heading into the eighth inning. The Freedom got a leadoff single from Sam Eberle. Austin Newell then hit a hard, bouncing ground ball that went under the glove of first baseman Danny Canela. The ball rolled all the way into the right field corner, where it bounced around long enough for the go-ahead run to score and Newell to make it to third. Gary Juarbe then chopped one through a drawn in left side to push the lead to 6-4.
In the bottom of the inning, the Rascals were poised to answer as they got the tying run on base with just one out. Curran Redal, the Rascals leadoff hitter, went 2-for-5 with an RBI on the day, but grounded into a double play in this at bat, ending the Rascals last real threat.
In the Freedom’s half of the ninth, they sent nine batters to the plate and scored five insurance runs for good measure. Zeb Sneed started the inning for the Rascals, but failed to get an out. All five batters Sneed faced ended up scoring in the inning. He didn’t get much help from his defense though as his night started with a ball skipping past his right fielder and ended with the center fielder airmailing everyone on a throw to the plate.
Rascals fans had a lot more to enjoy early in the team’s return to T.R. Hughes Ballpark. The Rascals struck first in the second inning. Canela reached on an error with a little help from the Florence second baseman. Last week’s Frontier League Hitter of the Week Tyler Ard then drove Canela in with a single into left. Ard scored later in the inning when catcher Josh Ludy laced a ball off the high, short wall in right to give River City the 2-0 lead.
After falling behind 4-2, the Rascals answered in the sixth inning. Hector Crespo scored from first on a single by Saxon Butler exacerbated by the left fielder slipping and Crespo running with the pitch. The score was tied when Butler came around to score off a double into the gap by Redal.
The Rascals failed to get another hit and left nine runners on base for the game.
Marc Rutledge started the game on the mound for River City. Rutledge lasted 3.1 innings giving up 3 earned on 4 hits running his season ERA to 4.44. Chandler Jagodzinski took the loss for giving up two unearned runs during his work in the eighth.
Florence starter Chuck Weaver pitched 5.2 innings and gave up 4 runs, 2 earned, on 11 hits and struck out 6. Tom Vocca got the win in relief of Weaver by pitching 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball.
The Rascals’ Tim Koons (2-0) will face Coleman Stephens (2-2) in Game 2 of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
As you may or may not know, there was a dispute with credentials with the Rascals earlier this season. That has been largely resolved, so we hope to bring you complete coverage of your River City Rascals for the rest of the season.