Hinojosa snaps Flying Squirrels losing streak

richmond flying squirrelsCJ Hinojosa cracked a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth inning to lead the Flying Squirrels (62-72) over the Reading Fightin Phils (64-69), 3-2 on Wednesday at The Diamond. A strong bullpen effort for Richmond also helped snap the Flying Squirrels five-game losing streak. Richmond and Reading conclude the series on Thursday at 6:35 p.m. at The Diamond. Thursday in Funnville is Salute to The Sandlot Night with a guest appearance from Squints and In-Your-Face Fireworks after the game, presented by James River Air.

Hinojosa delivered the go-ahead blast in the fifth inning off Reading starting pitcher Ranfi Casimiro. The Squirrels pitching staff racked up a total of 13 strikeouts in the effort -including nine from starter Conner Menez. Dan Slania earned the win in relief (2.1, 0H, BB 3K) and Dillon McNamara picked up his seventh save with a scoreless ninth inning.

Despite the nine strikeouts, Richmond’s Conner Menez struggled to find easy inning. Menez walked the first three batters of the game, including Damek Tomscha in ten-pitch at bat. Through the heat and humidity, Menez escaped the threat with a 1-2-3 double play and struck out Jose Pujols to end the inning. The inning took its toll on Menez, who used 33 pitches in the inning.

Menez struck out two more in the second inning and punched out the first two hitter in the third before running into trouble again. Reading attacked with four consecutive hits, plating a pair of runs for a 2-0 lead. Austin Listi lined a single into right field followed by a base hit from Tomscha. Darick Hall and Jose Pujols each followed with RBI singles.

Richmond trimmed the lead in half with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Reading starting pitcher Ranfi Casimiro held the Squirrels to a pair of hits over the first three frames. The Squirrels capitalized on an error to open the fourth inning, allowing Caleb Gindl to reach on a grounder to first base. Gindl advanced to third base when Ali Castillo doubled to left centerfield and scored on a grounder to third base off the bat of Jonah Arenado.

With a pitch count of 92 after four frames, Menez returned to try and last through five innings. The left retired the first two batters and was almost in the clear until Jonah Arenado committed an error on a ground ball behind the bag. The miscue unfortunately ended the outing for Menez. Reliever Dan Slania replaced Menez and stranded the inherited runner with a strikeout.

Menez received a no-decision in the 4.2 inning effort. The lefty struck out nine, walked three and hit two batters. He allowed the pair of runs on four hits, using 103 pitches. Reading’s Casimiro also had the strikeouts on display Wednesday. The 6’-8” right-hander picked up two strikeouts in the second, two in the fourth and two more in the fifth. The righty allowed the three runs (two earned) on six hits in the defeat. Casimiro (5-4) struck out seven overall and walked just one.

Slania muted the Reading offense over 2.1 innings of near-flawless relief. Slania (1-3) struck out three and walked one and faced the minimum of seven batters to earn the win. Right-hander Ian Gardeck took care of the eighth inning and McNamara picked up the save in the ninth.

The Flying Squirrels continue the final homestand of the year with the final game of a four-game series against Reading Thursday at 6:35 p.m. RHP Jake McCasland (4-7, 4.79) is scheduled to start the series finale vs. RHP Connor Seabold (1-4, 4.91). Thursday in Funnville is Salute to The Sandlot Night with a guest appearance from Squints. In-Your-Face Fireworks follow the game presented by James River Air. Tickets and information can be found atwww.squirrelsbaseball.com or by calling 804-359-FUNN

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