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Squirrels blast Reading for July 4th victory

richmond flying squirrelsThe Flying Squirrels (32-51) blasted three homers and scored a season-high 18 runs on 19 hits to defeat the Reading Fightin’ Phils 18-1 on Independence Day at The Diamond.

Matt Gage earned the win by pitching seven solid innings in front of a sellout crowd of 9,560 fans. Gage also collected his first career home run and drove in four in the victory. Squirrels centerfielder C.J Hinojosa smacked four of Richmond’s 19 hits in the effort. First baseman Chris Shaw added three hits and three RBIs in his Diamond debut. The loss snapped the Fightin Phils (60-25) seven-game winning streak.

The new-look Squirrels opened the homestand with an aggressive, three-run first inning. Reading spot starter Jeremy Bleich walked the first batter, Steven Duggar, and was felled by an error on a ground ball to third base. C.J. Hinojosa loaded the bases with a single to right field and Chris Shaw followed with a two-run base hit to left for a 2-0 advantage. Brandon Bednar added an infield single to score Hinojosa for a 3-0 Squirrels lead.

Shaw continued his assault on the Eastern League with an RBI double in the third inning. Hinojosa led off the inning with an infield single and came around to score when Shaw yanked a double to the bottom of the right field fence to provide Richmond with a 4-0 edge. The Boston College product smacked three hits, including a pair of doubles in the contest. Shaw has already picked up six RBI’s in his first five appearances at the Double-A level.

Matt Gage was spotty with his command early on, but picked up a pair of double plays to get him through the early innings to limit the damage. Gage worked around a pair of singles in the second inning and a one out walk in the third. Reading did manage to push across a run in the fourth on an RBI single by catcher Gabriel Lino. Jake Fox reached on an error to start the frame and Lino delivered the single to make it a 4-1 contest.

From there on out, it was all Richmond. The Squirrels continued to knock around Bleich and pushed him from the game with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Darren Ford drew a walk and advanced to third base on a double off the bat of Steven Duggar. Christian Arroyo then brought home Ford with a sacrifice fly to shallow right field for a 5-1 lead. Hinojosa followed with a line drive home run for a 7-1 Squirrels advantage. It was the first Double-A homer for Hinojosa and his third of four hits on the night. Bleich was removed after the homer and finished with 3 2/3 innings in the outing. Mario Hollands relieved Bleich and finished the fourth without further incident.

Hollands did not fare much better as Matt Gage delivered the coupe de grace at the plate with a three-run homer in the sixth inning. The long ball capped a five-run frame for the Squirrels to take a commanding 13-1 lead. It was the first home run of Gage’s career and his second hit of the game. The lefty earned the win by allowing just one run (unearned) on five hits and six strikeouts. Gage walked three and hurled 103 pitches in the contest.

For good measure, Richmond tacked on five more runs on the eighth inning to go ahead 18-1. Carlos Moncrief delivered the big-blow with a pinch-hit grand slam to left field. It was the first grand slam of the season for the Squirrels as Richmond scored a season-high18 runs in the victory. Relievers Preston Claiborne and Ray Black pitched the eighth and ninth innings to close out the game.