Curve rally in ninth, top Richmond, 5-3
The first installment of Brunch and Baseball was a huge success as 4,734 made their way inside The Diamond for the final game of the four-game series between the Richmond Flying Squirrels (4-7) and Altoona Curve (4-6).
In a series defined by pitching, the teams showed that last year’s 10-10 records in 20 meetings was no fluke, setting the stage for another tight rivalry in 2016. Jake Smith, the winning pitcher in Friday night’s 3-2 win, was one strike away from giving the Squirrels the series in the ninth. However, the Curve got a bases-clearing triple from Erich Weiss and their second ninth inning triple in as many days was the difference in a 5-3 Altoona win.
Both starters were strong despite losing in their first appearances of the season. In a game where the offense only generated four hits for the second straight day, Matt Gage’s effort was very encouraging for manager Miguel Ojeda. The lefthander was perfect through three, and worked around a pair of baserunners in the fourth and fifth while the game remained scoreless for the first half of the afternoon. In the top of the fifth, a leadoff double from Saturday’s hero Stetson Alllie and a Reese McGuire infield single put runners at the corners with nobody out. Barrett Barnes then lined out to Ryder Jones at third, and McGuire was nabbed on his way to second for a huge double play. Gage then got his counterpart David Whitehead to ground out, eventually finishing his afternoon with 5.2 scoreless innings.
With just one hit off Whitehead through five innings, the Squirrels finally broke the scoreless tie in the sixth against Dovydas Neverauskas. Left fielder Tyler Horan came up with one out and runners at the corners following a walk to Hunter Cole and a Ryder Jones single into left center. Horan’s grounder to short forced out Jones but the return throw wasn’t in time as he picked up his first RBI and a 1-0 Richmond lead.
The Curve quickly answered when third baseman Eric Wood led off the seventh with a home run to left off Dan Slania to tie the score. Slania threw 30 pitches in the inning, but made up for it when he went 1-2-3 in the eighth thanks to a double play ball off the bat of shortstop Anderson Feliz.
In the bottom of the seventh, Richmond put the first two on against righty Brett McKinney following a walk to Eliezer Zambrano and an error by second baseman Erich Weiss. Rando Moreno’s sacrifice bunt pushed both runners into scoring position before McKinney (1-1) fanned Christian Arroyo for the second out. Austin Slater then fell behind early in the count, but managed to stroke a seeing eye single into center to score both runners and make it 3-1.
Smith (1-1) started the ninth inning by striking out Wood, but watched the inning slowly change after Allie singled. McGuire then flied out to center and Barnes roped the next pitch into left to put the tying runs on base. Altoona manager Joey Cora called on Jonathan Schwind to pinch-hit, and in the most crucial spot of the game, Smith (1-1) walked him on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Another walk to Justin Maffei at the top of the order made it a one-run game, and Weiss eventually stroked a bases-clearing triple on a 1-2 pitch to give the Curve their first lead. Trailing 5-3, Moreno ignited a two-out rally in the ninth against Montana DuRapau when Wood misplayed a hard groundball at third. Arroyo ambushed the first pitch for a single into right center, but Slater took a called third strike to end the ballgame to give Altoona a split in the series.
The Flying Squirrels continue their homestand on Monday night when they welcome the Reading Fightin Phils to town for the start of a three-game series onApril 18th at 6:35 PM. RHP Kyle Crick (1-0, 7.20) will make his second start against Reading’s Ben Lively (1-0, 3.27 ERA). Season tickets, mini plans, and group packages are currently available by contacting the box office at 804-359-FUNN or online atwww.squirrelsbaseball.com.