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Freedom Win Opener, Have Optimistic Outlook for New Season

The Florence Freedom kicked off the 2016 season on Friday night with a 7-1 victory over the Windy City Thunderbolts before a crowd of 2,109 at UC Health  Stadium.

Jeremy Gooding got the ball for tonight's opener and delivered 6 1/3 Innings of 1 run 4 hit baseball in a game that saw the Freedom lumber come alive in the home half of the 4th inning as Collins Cuthrell, Andrew Godbold and Garrett Vail all went deep with solo shots.

The defense was solid as well, allowing only 5 hits on a night that saw a sparked and rejuvenated Freedom team that is looking for a little medicine after last season's final game.

The series continues Saturday at 6:05 p.m. with Clayton Crum for Florence taking the mound against Clay Chapman for the Thunderbolts.

Pelfrey, Vocca upbeat about Freedom season

We all remember that one neighborhood kid: the mild-mannered, always-polite and first to extend a hand to the little old lady next door.

When he grew up you would swear you were talking to Tony Vocca.

His second season playing professional baseball here with the Freedom, Vocca is being asked by manager Dennis Pelfrey, also in his second year of service, to be the "this is how things roll around here" guy as a way to acclimate some of the newer and younger faces to the 2016 Florence Freedom Professional Baseball season.

With his debut last season, Vocca was put in an unorthodox role for a pitcher by playing the utility role.  Whenever, Pelfrey needed him to pitch, Vocca proved early on that he is far more than a one dimensional pitcher taking the mount 30 times, including seven starts, tossing 70.1 total innings and finishing the season with a 2.55 ERA, struck out 49, while posting a 3-4 record and making one save.

His offseason regimen, which included working with his stepmother at a furniture store during the day before hitting the gym resonates his feelings and determination that this years team is certainly capable of heading to the post season and then some after last seasons 49-47 record.

Vocca and the team really appreciate Dennis Pelfey and the coaching staff's approach to "let you be you out there" and not trying to change too much of the individual player's style especially after last seasons spectacular second half turnaround and Pelfrey couldn't agree more saying, "I'm not a micro-manager with my coaches, with my players.

"I want them to play and to be able to showcase their abilities for the fans."

And the competitive nature all during spring training and the process that was, who was going to make the team and who wasn't, made sure this group of guys were on point, especially offensively, at the get-go.  And it is this advantage that Pelfrey sees In his group of young men that other clubs struggle with right out of the gate and the advantage that he and the team believe could be a difference maker come post season time.

Written by Erik Lake, RCN contributor

Photo: Jeremy Gooding (provided)