Freedom Get Mixed Results in First Series Post-Y'All-Star Game
Tue, 07/26/2016 - 21:30 RCN Newsdesk
The Florence Freedom picked up where they left off - in last place of the Frontier League's west division - after hosting the league's All-Star Game and related festivities.
The field at UC Health Stadium, home of the Freedom, is a million dollar playing surface unlike any other in the Frontier League with the conspicuous absence of dirt, making it possible to resume a game very shortly after a rain storm because of its remarkable drainage system.
The almost-zero maintenance surface is mostly a blessing but can also be troublesome. The artificial turf/rubber field absorbs every ray of light from the sun.
When the Joliet Slammers (31 - 28) were in town over the weekend to face the Freedom (26 - 34), local temperatures for the three games games were well into the 90's with the heat indexes over 100. Tack on an extra 10 - 15 degrees on the field and yeah, it was hot.
Game 1 on Friday immediately showed what happens when in the bottom of the 1st inning Freedom shortstop Travis Weaver hit his third home run of the season, surpassing his total of his last five professional seasons combined.
The blast seemed to provide the emotional spark that lifts a team to suddenly, in an instant, play better.
Jeremy Gooding (4 - 5, 4.25 ERA), coming off a slight groin injury during the All-Star break, pitched 6 complete innings, allowing 5 runs off 6 hits while striking out 8 to earn the victory as the offensive swings went back and forth for a little while between both clubs but in the end Florence earned a 7 - 6 series opening win.
Saturday night's game 2 was second baseman Daniel Fraga's turn to hit his first homer of the season and second career dinger when in the third he sent a moonshot that seemed to take forever to slice through the humidity before clearing the right field wall.
As Fraga crossed home plate, there stood the two biggest cheerleaders on the team: catcher Isaac Wenrich and right fielder Andrew Godbold were leading the wait for him in front of the dugout steps.
The offense was alive and well for Florence as every batter either had a hit, an RBI, or a run scored as the errors were many and ugly for Joliet which allowed 7 runs in the first 5 innings, ending the game with 4 errors.
Freedom starter Cody Gray (4 - 1, 3.63 ERA) was sensational taking the heat and humidity into his play. The 6'1", 220 lb. right hander delivered, quite brilliantly, his third straight victory while pitching 7.0 innings for the third straight outing on the way to a 11 - 4 Freedom victory, the team's third in a row.
Take Saturday's game and flip - flop it and you have Sunday's game.
Freedom pitcher David Adkins (4 - 3, 4.15) was very Un-Adkins-like against the Slammers, giving up 6 runs in the first two innings of play.
With second baseman Daniel Fraga and center fielder Andre Mercurio each drawing walks, first baseman Taylor Oldham stepped to the plate in the bottom of the third with 0 outs. After fouling a ball making his count 2 - 2 Oldham walked over to the dugout to seemingly get a new bat or pine tar his existing one, but no.
Taylor stripped his white with black trimmed batting gloves off his hands and replaced them with what seemed brand new pink batting gloves. With his bat tucked under his armpit and still trying to get the gloves on, he walked back to the batters box and set in.
The very next pitch was sent by Oldham over the left field wall and the Slammers led 6 - 3.
Reliever Tony Vocca was the other bright spot for the Freedom on Sunday. Vocca was on point, almost effortlessly hauling three innings and a third, giving up one run, two hits and striking out five.
His line would've been even better if it weren't for a 1 out, 2 - 0 wild pitch to Joliet's DH Hunter Ridge that scored Marc Flores from second base. Two pitches later, an all of a sudden rattled Vocca walked Ridge.
Freedom manager Dennis Pelfrey immediately called it a night for Vocca and he visibly and angrily slapped his glove after exiting the mound in the 7th.
The Freedom would answer Joliet's run in the bottom of the inning but 7 - 4 is how it would wind up in the end.
The Freedom are in Traverse City to face the Beach Bums and then return home Friday, July 29 for a three game weekend series with the Washington Wild.
Written by Erik Lake, RCN contributor