Squirrels drop five-run lead in ninth

richmond flying squirrelsThe Flying Squirrels (10-25) were one strike away – multiple times – from ending an eight game skid but instead were shocked by Altoona in a 7-6 defeat on Saturday at The Diamond. Altoona rallied for six runs in the ninth inning to overcome a five-run deficit and send the Squirrels to their ninth consecutive loss. Squirrels starting pitcher Matt Gage hurled five innings and struck out a season-high seven batters in a no-decision. The Squirrels will attempt to avoid the sweep in the finale of the series and homestand Sunday afternoon at 12:05 PM. UVA product Brandon Wadell is scheduled to throw against the Squirrels Tyler Beede.

After a fifty-five minute rain delay, the Curve grabbed the early lead for the third consecutive game in the series. Curve centerfielder Harold Ramirez singed to lead off the game against Richmond starter Matt Gage. Ramirez advanced to third base on a field error and scored when Jin-De Jhang roped a single to left field for a 1-0 Curve advantage. Richmond was close to retaliating in the bottom of the frame against Altoona righty David Whitehead but stranded the bases loaded.Richmond continued to apply pressure in the second inning to tie the game Ricky Oropesa opened the inning with abase hit and advanced to third on a two-base wild pitch. Jeff Arnold then followed with a slicing double to left field, tying the game at one run apiece.

Gage muddled through a pair of errors, three hits and a walk over the first three innings. The early runners elevated Gage’s pitch count to 63 pitches through the first three frames. The Squirrels gave Gage a 3-1 lead after Whithead walked the bases loaded to start the third inning. Hunter Cole and Myles Schroder both delivered sacrifice flies.Pitching with the lead, Gage emerged stronger in his final inning. Gage retire the side in the fifth inning and was finished after five innings of work The southpaw allowed one run (unearned) on five hits, one walk and a season-high seven strikeouts. He left with the lead.

Whitehead also hurled five innings in the slow-movng affair. Richmond tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth off Whitehead before he departed the contest. Austin Slater connected on his second hit of the day and came around to score on a booming double off the bat of hunter Cole for a 4-1 lead.

Christian Jones replaced Gage to start the sixth and retired the side without incident. Jones returned for the seventh and worked around a base hit to keep the three-run lead intact. Jones passed the torch to Tyler Rogers for a 1-2-3 outing in the eighth to earn the hold.

The Squirrels added to their lead with a pair of run in the eighth inning to go ahead 6-1. Curve reliever Edgar Santana walked Hunter Cole to open the eighth inning. Schroder then doubled and Santana unleashed a wild pitch to plate Cole. With two outs, Rando Moreno produced an RBI single to give Richmond the five-run cushion.

Unfortunately, those five runs would not be enough as Richmond collapsed in the ninth inning. Dan Slania entered out of the pen to try and get the final three outs and punched out the first hitter Stetson Allie. Barrett Barnes then singled and Chris Diaz walked. Slania then managed to strikeout pinch hitter Austin Meadows for out number two. Harold Ramirez and Erich Weiss followed with consecutive doubles to push Slania from the game. Tyler Mizenko then entered to attempt to earn the save but a ground ball to third was misplayed and Edwin Espinal reached on a base hit. Jin-DeJhang delivered the go-ahead runs with a two-out base hit to complete the comeback.

Closer Montana DuRapau closed out the contest to pick up his eighth save of the season.

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