For the second consecutive night, the Richmond Flying Squirrels rallied late in front of a sellout crowd to earn a thrilling victory at The Diamond.
Richmond catcher Eliezer Zambrano lined a base hit to right in the ninth inning with the bases loaded to finish a walk-off, 3-2 win over the Altoona Curve (2-6) on Friday night. Richmond (4-5) tied the contest 2-2 in the eighth inning after trialing since the fourth frame. Jake Smith earned the win in his Double-A debut by hurling a 1-2-3 top of the ninth. Game three of the series is Saturday night at 6:05 PM on the Boulevard.
Squirrels starting pitcher Chase Johnson retired the first nine Altoona batters with ease to begin his second outing of the year. Johnson encountered some trouble in the second inning as Altoona scratched across apair of runs for a 2-0 lead. Harold Ramirez and Anderson Feliz led off the inning with a pair of base hits. Jose Osuna then grounded to the left side of the infield, scoring Ramirez for the game’s first run. Johnson walked the next man and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Facing the next batter Stetson Allie, Johnson reached a two-strike count but was felled by a weak infield base hit that scored Osuna from third.
Altoona starter Tyler Eppler kept the Squirrels at arms length through the first five innings. Hunter Cole singled in the first inning as the onlyearly threat against Eppler. The Altoona righty retired 13 consecutive batters from the end of the first until one out in the sixth when reliever Mike Kickham yanked a triple inside the first base line. Kickham was brought in via a ground out to cut the Squirrels deficit, 2-1.
Johnson lasted four innings and hurled 74 pitches in the outing. He allowed two runs on four hits with five strikeouts in the no-decision. Mike Kickham, originally a member of the Squirrels 2012 club, made his return to The Diamond in a relief role in the fifth. Kickham worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings and departed with two runners on in the seventh for Tyler Rogers. The submarinerighty Rogers worked out of the jam to keep it a 2-1 contest.
Pinch hitter Christian Arroyo plated the tying run in the eighth inning off Altoona reliever Jared Lakind. Catcher Matt Winn started the inning with a single and was removed for pinch runner Tyler Horan. Horan scored the run, leading to Zambrano’s entrance into the game in the ninth inning. Jake Smith (1-0) entered in the top of the ninth and pitched a scoreless frame to keep the game tied, 2-2.
That set the stage for Squirrels 2015 team MVP Rando Moreno. Moreno got things started in the bottom of the ninth with an infield single. He moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a base hit. Zambrano then delivered the single to right to win.
The Flying Squirrels 2016 home schedule continues on Saturday, April 16th at 6:05 PM. RHP Joan Gregorio (0-0, 0.00) is scheduled to stat against Altoona LHP Cody Dickson (0-1, 8.10). Season tickets, mini plans, and group packages are currently available by contacting the box office at 804-359-FUNN or online at www.squirrelsbaseball.com.