Richmond Flying Squirrels comeback falls short
The Altoona Curve (8-6) socked 14 hits and dodged a late surge from the Richmond Flying Squirrels (11-5) in a 7-6 win on Saturday afternoon at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The Flying Squirrels utilized three home runs, including a three-run blast from Jerry Sands to pull to within a run late. The Squirrels had the tying run in scoring position in the ninth, but Yeudy Garcia induced a sharp ground ball to end the game and even the series. The series finale’ is set for Sunday at 2 p.m.
Trailing 7-3 in the eighth inning, Sands slammed his three-run homer over the centerfield wall to pull to within a run, 7-6. Sands connected off reliever Sean Keselica, who also walked Dillon Dobson before being removed with the tying run on and two outs in the eighth. Yeudy Garcia replaced Keselica and finished the inning. Garcia also put a pair of runners on in the ninth, but finished the game to earn the save.
For the second consecutive game, the Richmond bullpen was forced into extensive duty due to an abbreviated outing by the starting pitcher. The Squirrels ‘pen cobbled together the bulk of the contest and managed to keep the game within reach. Jake McCasland was the first man up in the second and tossed 3.1 innings of relief. McCasland scattered five hits while allowing one run in his longest outing of the year. Dan Slania replaced McCasland and worked a scoreless sixth inning.
The Curve offense managed to have runners on base in every inning in the contest. Ray Black took over for Slania in the seventh and allowed a pair of runs to fall behind 7-3. Black allowed an RBI double to Christian Kelley and a passed ball to score a run.
At the start, Altoona pushed across a pair of runs in the first due to Richmond RHP Cory Taylor scuffling with his command and pitch count. Stephen Alemais and Jason Martin opened the first with a pair of base hits. Taylor then picked up a flyout and issued a walk before striking out Logan Hill with the bases loaded. The righty was almost out of the inning without any damage until Elvis Escobar lined the first pitch he saw into left field for a 2-0 Altoona lead. Taylor retired the next hitter while the Squirrels had action in the bullpen at the time due to 34 pitches thrown in the inning.
The Squirrels briefly tied the game in the top of the second inning against Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller. Ronnie Jevbavy worked his 11th walk of the season and promptly stole second bae with one out in the second. Matt Lipka then deposited his second home run of the season into the seats in left field, tying the game 2-2. It was the first home run of the year allowed by Keller.
Taylor continued to struggle in the second inning and failed to make it out of the frame. With two outs and Mitch Keller at first, Jason Martin drilled a two-run home run over the right field wall to give Altoona a 4-2 lead. Jordan George followed the Martin homer with a base hit, forcing Taylor to an early exit. Jake McCasland was summoned with two outs in the first and eventually ended the inning by stranding a pair of runners.
Following the Lipka home run, Keller carried on to retire eight consecutive batters and kept Richmond off the board. Keller tossed seven innings and held Richmond to just three runs (two home runs). Keller stuck out seven and walked three on 94 pitches. Keller (2-0) earned the win in his third start of the year.
The Squirrels utilized a pair of late-inning home runs to keep things close. Dillon Dobson lined an opposite field homer off of Keller to start the seventh and Jerry Sands launched a three-run bomb to pull the Squirrels to within a run, 7-6.
Taylor (2-1) worked 1.2IP in the effort. He allowed four runs on five hits while using 59 pitches. He walked two and struck out one in the defeat.