Strong bullpen efforts key Richmond Flying Squirrels sweep

richmond-squirrelsThe Richmond Flying Squirrels completed a Father’s Day doubleheader sweep over the New Britain Rock Cats on Sunday afternoon at The Diamond. The Squirrels (37-30) grabbed Game one, 9-1, and Game two, 3-1 to improve to a season-high seven games above .500 on the year. Bullpen arms Edwin Quirarte and Pedro Rodriguez were both solid in their first starting assignments of the season. The victories pulled the Squirrels back to a half game of second place in the Western Division.

Just like the previous two games in this series, it was another slow start offensively for both clubs in Game one. New Britain (38-31) jumped on the board first in the second inning. The bottom of the order provided three consecutive singles with one out. Jason Langfels drove in Pat Valaika on a soft infield single hit towards third baseman Mitch Delfino who double-clutched the throw to first. Rock Cats led 1-0. It is the first time since June 7thRichmond did not score first in a game.

RHP Edwin Quirarte made a rare start for the Squirrels and lasted three innings. The 28-year-old only surrendered three hits, all in the second inning, along with just one run. This was Quirarte’s second career start in 318 appearances for the typical reliever.

The Squirrels gathered themselves on offense in the third inning. Leadoff hitter Kelby Tomlinson was drilled in the back with one out to jumpstart the lineup. In just his 13th game with the team, Engel Beltre lashed an RBI triple into the right field corner to tie the game, 1-1. The next hitter, Mac Williamson, blasted his 15th double over the centerfielder Noel Cuevas and Beltre easily scored. Richmond was not done after that as Angel Villalona smoked a line drive the opposite way to right field and that plated Williamson for a 3-1 advantage. That was just the 5th RBI for Villalona this season.

New Britain starter Brett Marshall continued his rocky outing to the fourth inning, which simulated the previous frame. The Squirrels added another three runs on three hits to take a 6-1 lead. This included a Rando Moreno squeeze bunt and Daniel Carbonell crossed home plate just ahead of the flip from the pitcher Marshall. New Britain catcher Tom Murphy airmailed the throw to first in an attempt to retire Moreno, who dashed down to first base safely. This was one of two errors from Murphy. Beltre and Williamson provided more breathing room with a pair of RBI singles. Marshall completed 3.2 innings and allowed six runs in his fourth start of the season.

Reliever Tyler Ybarra took over duties for the Rock Cats and recorded two wild pitches in the fifth inning. Following Villalona’s double to right centerfield, the first baseman ultimately came across to score on one of those wild pitches. Richmond took a 7-1 lead.

The Squirrels padded the run total even more in the 6th frame. Villalona lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield and Mitch Delfino chopped a ball through the left side for an RBI single. It was 9-1 Richmond to this point.

Phil McCormick was magnificent in relief duty for the Squirrels. The southpaw logged a season high three innings and did not let a run cross home plate. The bullpen success resumed when Derek Law made his first appearance in a Richmond jersey this year. The right-hander, who pitched for the Squirrels in 2014, threw one inning and registered two strikeouts in the seventh inning to preserve the victory.

In the second game of this twin bill, the Squirrels did not waste any time in the run column. Moreno smacked a triple to right field gap with one out in the first inning. Williamson recorded his third RBI on the afternoon with a low liner down the right field line for a double. After a pinch hit role in the first game, Ricky Oropesa came right out of the gates in the second game knocked a softly hit single into shallow centerfield. Richmond jumped in front 2-0.

Pedro Rodriguez carried the Squirrels on the mound in just his ninth career start. The right-hander tossed a season high five shutout innings, fanned five batters, and only allowed two hits. He received some help from his battery mate Jackson Williams as the catcher threw out threw base runners, and two of them came while Pedro was on the mound. Stephen Johnson took over for Rodriguez and worked around a walk and a single to produce a scoreless sixth inning.

Devin Harris hammered his Eastern League leading 22nd double down the left field line to spark a mini insurance chance in the bottom of the sixth. Oropesa plopped a single into center and Harris scored easily to make it 3-0 Richmond.

Josh Osich was summoned out the bullpen and dealt with a tiny bit of trouble. Jeremy Barfield rocked a double on the first pitch of the seventh inning. He would score on an RBI single from Jan Vazquez to make it a 3-1 Squirrels lead. The southpaw buckled down and retired Charley Thurber with a strikeout. It is the 19th save this season for Osich and that is good for the most in the Eastern League.

The finale of the five-game series is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. on Monday afternoon at The Diamond.  Richmond RHP Joe Biagini (6-3, 1.56) will make the start against New Britain RHP Shane Carle (7-4, 3.40).  The Flying Squirrels Pregame Warmup will begin at 11:35 a.m. on Fox Sports 910 and FoxSportsRichmond.com.


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