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Freedom Players Get Six Hits in Y'All-Star Battle

As All-Star games go, this one was a whirlwind. Ready? 
 
Yes, outfielder Andrew Godbold was the only Florence Freedom player voted in as a Frontier League All-Star this year.  
 
However, Mike Pinto (Southern Illinois Miners), the West All-Star's skipper, was allotted four hand-picked players to be added to the roster.  
 
Doing the right thing, seeing as how the game was in Florence, he hand selected three more Freedom players for the fans. Veteran outfielder Austin Newell, experIenced infielder Taylor Oldham, and pitcher Jeremy Gooding were chosen to play in Wednesday night's game.
 
Each manager wants to use each All-Star at some point in the game and Pinto and All-Star manager Dennis Pelfrey (Florence Freedom) made the transition of the three Freedom hitters as seamless as possible for the fan experience.  
 
They strategically inserted Newell, Oldham, and Godbold into the game until they all came together to bat consecutively in the bottom of the 7th and 8th innings that saw the West bats put a beat down on the East All-Star pitching for an 11 to 4 win.  
 
Austin Newell took over left field in the top of the 4th inning and then delivered a two-out double in the bottom of the fourth, reaching third on a wild pitch, but was left on base to end the inning.
 
Andrew Godbold entered the game in the top of the 6th inning to play right field and flied out to center in the bottom of the frame. Two batters later, Newell smacked a two-out single up the middle but was stranded on base.
 
Then it was Taylor Oldham's turn. Taking over third base, there were now four Freedom players defensively on the field at the same time because reliever Tony Vocca was cruising to an easy 1-2-3 half-inning of work, but no one saw the forthcoming rout in the 7th inning.
 
The East team was up 3-1 at this point was Mike Devine (Lake Erie Crushers) took over on the mound.  
 
Here's what went down then:
 
Aaron Gates (Southern Illinois Miners) led the inning off with a walk.
Francisco Rosario (Miners) lined a hit and run single to center moving Gates to third.
Santiago Chirino (Normal CornBelters) singled, scoring Gates and advancing Rosario to third.
Nik Balog ( Evansville Otters) belted a three run homer.
Alex De Leon (Miners) drilled a single.
 
It was then 5-3 in favor of the West with 0 outs. Chandler Jagodznski (Lake Erie Crushers) took over on the mound. Devine was still responsible for De Leon. 
 
Godbold doubled to deep center and De Leon scored.
 
Oldham hit a blooper to shallow center that fell for a single as Godbold took to third base.  
 
Newell lined out to first base but not before Oldham stole second.
 
There was 1 out.
 
Josh Ludy (River City Rascals) hit into a fielder's choice to the pitcher, the throw to the catcher was bobbled to the backstop, and both Oldham and Godbold scored. Ludy was safe at first.
 
Gates, batting again in the inning, hit into a 6-4-3 double play to finally end the inning. West had the lead, 8-3.
 
It would get worse for the East. 
 
After another 1-2-3 half inning of pitching by Zac Treece (Rascals) the West bats came up again.
 
Rosario led off the bottom of the 8th with a grounder to short for out number 1.
Chirino then lined a single and then Nik Balog crushed a 2-run homer (and brought his RBI total to 5 for the night, solidifying him as the game's MVP).
De Leon followed with a single.
Godbold then got a single of his own.
Oldham struck out.
And Newell then reaches on a single that scored De Leon and sent Godbold to third before Ludy filed out to left field to end the inning, with the West up 11-3. That would nearly be the final score. East added a solo home run over the tallest billboard in the outfield, before falling 11-4.
 
Tony Vocca of the Freedom got the win, while Mike Devine recorded the loss.
 
Update on Freedom pitcher Jeremy Gooding
 
It was that time of the evening where dusk had started to settle but the stadium lights weren't helping either so the top of the 7th inning saw #22 take the mound as the new pitcher for the West. We all had seen Jeremy Gooding slowly jog towards the bullpen in the 5th inning to supposedly take some warm-up tosses in preparation of pitching and he was introduced to the crowd in pre-game ceremonies.
 
It didn't look like Jeremy Gooding, but this guy had his jersey and a Freedom hat on. His first warm-up pitch to the plate, though, led some in the press box to recognize who it was: "that's Vocca!" Tony Vocca, the Freedom reliever and not even a member of the All-Star roster, was pitching. 
 
Freedom General Manager Josh Anderson reported right before the conclusion of Wednesday's All-Star Game at UC Health Stadium  that Gooding has a "tweaked groin".
 
Manager Dennis Pelfrey confirmed the injury during a post-game interview saying, "Jeremy didn't start on Sunday for us. He said he felt good today, but to me he wasn't 100 percent so I wanted him out today because, I want to take every precaution because obviously we need him back for the second half for us."  
 
Pelfrey made it clear that it was solely his call to hold Gooding out of the All-Star game and that he will be starting for the Freedom Saturday against the Joliet Slammers.  
 
Tony Vocca was added to the All-Star roster at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday simply for the fact that Gooding was hurt and the Frontier League Commissioner, Bill Lee said it was within the rules to allow Vocca to do so.  
 
Pelfrey seemed a bit relieved when saying, "He's one of our better guys, we feel, he's starting to get back in his groove. He was here, he didn't go home like some of the other guys, he didn't have a problem throwing for us tonight and he'll be good to go for us on Friday."
 
The Freedom (21-30) begin the second half of the season with a six-game road trip beginning on Friday.  
 
Written by Erik Lake, RCN contributor
Photo provided