Squirrels Use Big First Inning to Clinch Series

Richmond, VA (WWBT)- Left-hander Clayton Tanner bounced back after being knocked down by a come-backer in the fifth inning, and the Richmond Flying Squirrels rolled behind his strong performance to a 7-5 victory over the Portland Sea Dogs at The Diamond on Saturday night.

The Squirrels ambushed Portland right-hander Michael Lee in the first inning, racking up four consecutive hits to start their offensive evening. Francisco Peguero got Richmond started with a single back through the middle. Charlie Culberson followed with a single through the hole on the left-side of the infield. Roger Kieschnick then pulled a two-run triple into the right-field corner, giving the Squirrels a 2-0 lead. Chris Dominguez followed and unloaded on a first-pitch slider, belting it well over the wall in left field. Dominguez's sixth home run with Richmond doubled the Squirrels' edge to 4-0.

Tanner retired the first six hitters of the ballgame, but the Sea Dogs were able to scratch across a pair of runs in the third to cut the Squirrels' lead in half. Oscar Tejeda led off the inning with a single, before being forced at second base on a ground ball from Dan Butler. Tanner then walked Ryan Dent to put two aboard with one away. Jeremy Hazelbaker grounded out but moved the runners up and Ryan Khoury supplied a jam-shot two-run single into left-center field.

A one-out walk issued to Skyler Stromsmoe in the fourth inning would spark the Squirrels anew. Peguero followed the walk and laced a hit-and-run triple into the alley in right-center field. Stromsmoe scored from first for a 5-2 lead. Lee departed the ballgame following the triple in favor of right-hander Eammon Portice. Squirrels' skipper Dave Machemer greeted the reliever with the suicide-squeeze. With Peguero tearing towards the plate, Culberson got the bunt down in front of the plate for a 6-2 lead.

Lee was tagged with six runs on six hits over 3.1 innings. He walked two and struck out two as he endured his sixth loss of the season.

Tejeda led off the top of the fifth inning with his second single of the night off of Tanner. A batter later, Ryan Dent laid down a bunt-single to put two aboard. Hazelbaker followed and cracked a come-backer that struck Tanner just above the heart. Tanner crumpled to the ground, but Tejeda remained at third base as the bases were loaded. Scary moments followed as Tanner lay in front of the mound while being tended to by Richmond trainer Eric Ortega. After several fretful minutes, Tanner rose to his feet and delighted The Diamond crowd by continuing in the ballgame. Khoury bounced out to first base, but Tejeda scored to shrink the Richmond lead to three runs, 6-3.

Tanner worked into the seventh inning, retiring after a one-out walk to Butler. Tanner worked 6.1 innings, allowing four runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out three as he earned his fifth victory of the season. Butler came around to score later in the frame as Khoury added his fourth RBI of the night with a single off of right-hander Hector Correa.

Portland cut the Richmond lead to a lone run with an eighth-inning tally off of right-hander Mitch Lively. However, the Squirrels got the run back on a Stromsmoe RBI single in the bottom of the inning to cap the scoring.

Right-hander Heath Hembree came on to nail down the victory for Richmond, mowing down the Sea Dogs in order in the ninth inning for his 12th save of the season.

The Squirrels will go for the sweep of Portland Sunday evening at 5:05 pm.  Harrisburg topped Erie on Saturday night, so Richmond remains a half game behind the Senators for first place in the Western Division.

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