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Freedom Drop Series Opener but Still Lead Division by 4 Games

It was a rough series opener for the Florence Freedom who were walloped Tuesday night, 9-1, by the River City Rascals in O'Fallon, Mo.

The Freedom (42-25) managed just three hits in the game, each of which came off Rascals starter Lucas Laster (1-1), who battled bouts of wildness and walked five batters through six innings.

After a Paul Kronenfeld RBI single off Freedom pitcher Braulio Torres-Perez (2-1) in the bottom of the first inning, the Freedom tied the score in the top of the second. Collins Cuthrell worked a leadoff walk, took third on a Jordan Brower single and score on a groundout to second by Andrew Godbold. But Clint Freeman homered to right-center in the bottom half to put River City back in the lead for good.

Torres-Perez would go on to strike out eight, but also issued a season-high six walks. The left-hander’s only scoreless inning was the fourth, in which he overcame a leadoff walk by inducing two fielder’s choice grounders and caught Mike Jurgella breaking early from first base on an attempted steal.

Josh Silver hit two doubles while he and Josh Ludy each drove in two runs for River City (37-31), while Freeman collected three hits to lead the Rascals, who would also score two runs off reliever Jack Fowler in the eighth, following a scoreless seventh by Enrique Zamora.

Keivan Berges provided a defensive highlight for Florence in the sixth, throwing out Jurgella at the plate from left field on an attempted tag up from third on a fly ball by Silver.

Matt Chavarria earned the save for River City, allowing only a walk to Garrett Vail over the final three innings.

The Freedom drop to 42-25 on the season, but are four games ahead of the Evansville Otters in the Frontier League's West Division.

The four-game series continues with a doubleheader Wednesday, with the first game scheduled to begin at 5:05 p.m. Newly-acquired right-hander Steve Hagen (4-4) will start the first game for the Freedom against River City left-hander Dan Ludwig (5-2), while right-hander Cody Gray (7-2) will start game two for Florence against Rascals righty Reese Gregory (6-4).

-Staff report