newssquirrels walk off grand slam staves off curve celebration
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Squirrels walk-off grand slam staves off Curve celebration

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richmond flying squirrelsFlying Squirrels third baseman Ryder Jones smashed a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam on Saturday night, sending the Curve into a spiral by a final of 7-3 at The Diamond. The win for Richmond (61-78) held Altoona’s magic number to secure a spot in the postseason at one. Trailing 3-2 in the ninth, Squirrels second baseman Junior Amion worked a bases loaded walk to tie the game, allowing Jones to deliver the heroic homer. Steven Duggar led the offense for most of the night with three hits, falling a triple shy of the cycle.

Needing a win and a Harrisburg loss on Saturday night to punch their ticket to the postseason, Altoona turned to left-hander Cody Dickson for the start. Dickson struggled with a tighter strike zone and pitched with runners on base throughout the outing. The Squirrels threatened from the jump with a leadoff double from Steven Duggar in the first. Dickson, as he did for most of the night, navigated around the hit and a walk to keep Richmond off the board.

The Squirrels countered with right-hander Sam Coonrod in his final outing of the year. Coonrod also dealt with traffic on the bases, but was able to keep Altoona off the board for the first four innings.

Richmond pulled ahead 1-0 and 2-0 with a run in the third and another in the fourth. Duggar roped a single into center field – his second of three hits on the night – and came around to score on double from Chris Shaw into the corner in right field. With two outs, Dickson walked Brandon Bednar for the second time in the contest to load the bases, but managed to retire Steve Lerud, limiting the damage to just one run. Duggar added to his impressive performance the next inning by launching his first Double-A homer run over the right field wall. Duggar was a triple short of the cycle after four innings played.

The 2-0 lead would not hold up as Coonrod and the defense faltered in the top of the fifth inning. Stetson Allie opened the inning with a base hit and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Elvis Escobar followed with a walk and Erich Weiss hit a slow ground ball in between first and second. Newly added Squirrels second baseman Junior Amion fielded the grounder and threw high to first base, allowing Escobar to score. Coonrod walked the next hitter and was forced to face Squirrels nemesis Edwin Espinal with runners on base. Espinal knocked a single into center field plating one run to tie the game. Centerfielder Steven Duggar came up with the base hit in center and threw a bullet to home plate to get the trail runner out and keep the game tied, 2-2.

Both starters were through after five innings and earned no-decisions. Coonrod allowed the two runs (unearned) on four hits. He walked four and struck out four by using 98 pitches. Dickson also lasted five innings and allowed a pair of runs on the night. Dickson struck out seven and walked four as well. Dickson pitched with runners on in every inning.

Tyler Mizenko relieved Coonrod in the sixth and retired the side in order. Mizenko gave way to Christian Jones in the seventh and Jones retired all six batters he faced to send the game tied into the ninth.

In the ninth, Altoona went ahead for the first time in the contest against right-hander Jose Casilla. Altoona Catcher Jin-De Jhang doubled into left field to start up the rally. Jang moved to third on a single and came around to snap the tie, 3-2, on ground all to second base.

The Curve staff struggled with free passes all night along, even the usually dependable closer Montana DuRapau in the ninth. DuRapau retired the first batter Chris Shaw and then relinquished consecutive hits to C.J Hinojosa and Brandon Bednar. The next hitter Steve Lerud worked a walk to load the bases, allowing Junior Amion to tie the game with a walk of his own. Ryder Jones then pinch-hit and connected on a deep blast to right field for a walk-off grand slam. It was the second grand slam of the season for the Squirrels team.

DuRapau (3-3) suffered the loss while Casilla (2-2) earned the win despite allowing the run in the ninth inning.

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