Early Deficit Digs Hole for Freedom Against Miners

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Five multi-hit performances not enough in first loss of year to Southern Illinois

FLORENCE, Ky. — Tony Vocca gave up three first-inning runs and the Florence Freedom, presented by Titan Mechanical Solutions, were forced to play catch-up in an eventual 6-4 loss to the Southern Illinois Miners on Friday at UC Health Stadium.

Southern Illinois (29-41) raced out to an early lead in the top of the first, as Craig Massey led off the game with a double to left-center before coming around to score on a single by Romeo Cortina. Nolan Earley then deposited a Vocca (6-5) breaking ball into the Freedom (44-27) bullpen, pushing the Miners in front, 3-0.

The Freedom pulled within two in the bottom half of the first, as Taylor Oldham singled off Miners starter Chris Washington (2-3) before stealing second and third, and crossed the plate on an Andre Mercurio bunt-single.

Leading 3-1 in the top of the fourth, Southern Illinois used a Ryan Lashley single and a double by Anthony Critelli to set-up a Ryan Sluder sacrifice fly and an RBI-groundout by Massey to extend their lead to 5-1.

Following a pair of singles by Jordan Brower and Keivan Berges in the bottom of the fourth, Garrett Vail laced a double in to the left-center gap, scoring Brower to make the score 5-2. Berges attempted to score from first but was thrown out at the plate to end the frame.

Daniel Fraga made the score 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to right field off Miners reliever Kyle Tinius.

One more insurance run would score for the Miners in the top of the ninth on Cortina’s second RBI-single of the game. In the bottom half, Fraga drew a one-out walk and scored on a two-out bloop double to shallow left field by Jose Brizuela to bring the tying run to the plate. But Mercurio flew out to center, ending the game.

Brower led the Freedom with three hits, while Berges, Brizuela, Fraga and Mercurio each collected two. Florence, however, left nine runners stranded in the game, including at least one in each of the first five innings.

The Freedom loss handed the Miners their third straight victory, and was Florence’s fourth consecutive loss of a series opener.

The series continues Saturday with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. at UC Health Stadium. Jordan Kraus (8-4) will start for the Freedom against a yet-to-be-determined starter for Southern Illinois.

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