Twice as nice: Surging Squirrels sweep doubleheader
The surging Flying Squirrels defeated Altoona twice on Saturday, extending their winning streak to a season-high four games.
Richmond (27-34) grabbed game one of the doubleheader by a final of 6-2 and held on for a 3-2 win in the night cap. Andrew Suarez earned his fourth win of the season in the first contest and the bullpen – led by Colin Balester – did the job in game two. The Squirrels have now won eight of the past ten games and will seek their first series sweep of the season on Sunday evening at 6 p.m.
After collecting a season-high 18 hits on Friday, the Squirrels offense continued to impress in game one on Saturday. The Squirrels struck for six runs on six hits, including a pair of home runs in the second inning off of Austin Coley. Jeff Arnold opened the scoring with a two-run, line drive homer over the left field wall. Myles Schroder brought home another pair of runs with a triple to right center and Miguel Gomez added a two-run homer to go ahead 6-0. Gomez, hitting left-handed, lofted a soft fly ball that carried over the left field wall. It was the sixth home run of the season for Gomez.
Andrew Suarez took the ball in game one for the Squirrels and turned in his eighth quality start of the season. Suarez was solid and also received some stellar defense behind him, especially in the third inning. With runners on second and first, Kevin Kramer lifted a single into right field. Elvis Escobar attempted to score from second base on the hit but Myles Schroder came up with the ball and threw him out at home plate.
The Curve managed a run off of Suarez on the fourth inning. Edwin Espinal doubled up the third base line to begin the inning and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Jordan Luplow grounded out to shortstop, bringing home Espinal to make it 6-1. Suarez ended the inning with his first of two strikeouts in the game.
It appeared Suarez might be in more trouble in the fifth when the first two batters reached. Suarez gathered his composure and retired the next three hitters to keep the 6-1 lead in his favor. The lefty needed just five pitches to retired the side in the sixth inning and returned to start the seventh. He came up one out shy of tossing the seven inning complete game, leaving with two outs and runners on base. Carlos Alvarado entered to close out the game and earn his second save of the season.
Altoona’s starting right-hander Austin Coley (1-2) lasted five innings for the Curve and allowed six runs on nine hits in the defeat. Coley struck out three and walked two prior to being relieved by RHP Buddy Borden.
Richmond’s offensive onslaught carried over once again, this time with three runs in the first inning. Myles Schroder began the attack with a single and Jerry Sands followed with a base hit to shallow left center field. Schroder moved first to third on the play and forced a throwing error, allowing Sands to take second base. Brandon Bednar then lined a single into center field to take a 1-0 lead and Carlos Garica struck a two-run base hit to right. Altoona’s Sean Keselica finally ended the inning on his 24th pitch. The three runs in the first were just enough to complete the doubleheader sweep.
The Squirrels leaned on reliever Collin Baluster in a spot start for game two. Balester rose to the occasion and allowed only one hit through the first three innings. Altoona scraped together an unearned run in the fourth, but Balester was able to finish the inning in his longest outing since 2013. Balester tossed four full innings and allowed one run (unearned) on two hits. He walked one and struck out two in the no-decision.
Ryan Halstead replaced Balester in the fifth and retired the side in order. Halstead allowed a base hit in the sixth and was removed in favor of Jarret Martin with one out in the inning. Martin recorded a strike out and fly out to end the inning and earn the hold. Halstead (1-0) earned the win and Tyler Cyr closed out the contest to pick up his seven save of the season. Cyr allowed a run in the seventh, but shut the door with the tying run in scoring position.
The Flying Squirrels conclude their six day road trip in Altoona on Sunday evening. RHP Jose Flores (1-0, 1.21) is slated to start for Richmond against Altoona RHP Tanner Anderson (3-6, 4.37). Richmond will return to The Diamond for a brief three game series starting on Tuesday, June 13 against New Hampshire. Individual tickets, mini plans and group packages are on sale by contacting the Richmond box office at 804-359-FUNN or online at www.squirrelsbaseball.com