Squirrels Out-Slug Aeros to Even Series

Richmond, VA (WWBT)- The Richmond Flying Squirrels emerged from a dog-fight with the Akron Aeros battered, bruised and victorious, 8-6, in front of a capacity-crowd of 9,560 at The Diamond on Saturday night. The win allowed the Squirrels to level the series with Akron, with a rubber-match slated for Sunday night at 5:05.

After two scoreless innings, the Aeros broke through first against Richmond left-hander Chuck Lofgren in the third inning. It took just one swing, as Karexon Sanchez led off the inning with a solo-home run to left field for a 1-0 Akron lead.

Richmond responded in the bottom of the inning, striking for a pair of runs and the lead against Akron right-hander Brett Brach. Wendell Fairley tripled up the right-field line to start the inning. Skyler Stromsmoe followed with a single back through the middle to bring in Fairley and tie the ballgame, 1-1. Stromsmoe advanced to second on a throwing-error charged to Akron catcher Michel Hernandez, and took third on a wild-pitch. Francisco Peguero brought him in for the lead with a sacrifice-fly to center field.

Akron quickly knotted the game back up in the fourth inning, as Kyle Bellows doubled to the left-field corner to start the frame. Raul Padron bunted Bellows to third and he scored when Hernandez singled into center field. It could have been worse in the inning for Lofgren, who then issued a pair of walks to load the bases. However, he grounded out Ben Copeland to end the threat. Akron stranded the bases loaded in the inning, and had left seven men on base through four innings.

Laboring throughout his evening, Lofgren lasted into the fifth inning before retiring for the evening after issuing a pair of walks. Right-hander Hector Correa was summoned to put out the fire, keeping the ballgame tied through 4 ½ innings. Lofgren didn't register a decision, working four innings plus two batters. He conceded two earned runs on seven hits, walked four and struck out four.

Again it was Stromsmoe providing a spark for the Squirrels as they reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. Stromsmoe registered his ninth hit of the home stand, a single to lead-off the inning. Darren Ford attempted to lay down a sacrifice-bunt, but Bellows made an error in judgment, throwing to second base where he didn't get Stromsmoe. Charlie Culberson bunted the runners up, and Peguero chipped in his second sacrifice-fly of the ballgame to give Richmond the lead back, 3-2. Roger Kieschnick followed and cracked his team-best 16th home run of the season to left field. The two-run shot put Richmond in front, 5-2.

The lead didn't last long, as Correa got wild in the top of the sixth inning. He started the inning with a walk issued to Hernandez - the fifth walk from a Richmond-hurler on the evening. He then fell behind Sanchez before he singled to put two aboard. Jordan Henry laid down a bunt-single to load the bases with nobody down. Correa struck out Juan Diaz, but Ben Copeland legged out a fielder's choice to score a run and keep the inning alive. Correa then fell behind Chun Chen 3-0 before Chen belted a three-run home run to left field to give Akron the advantage, 6-5. Correa was charged with four earned runs in the inning.

Richmond bounced right back up off the canvas in the bottom of the sixth inning against right-hander Adam Miller. Johnny Monell sparked the uprising with a one-out single. Fairley followed with his second single of the night, and Stromsmoe walked to load the bases. Miller recovered to strike out Ford, but Culberson sent a come-backer that deflected off the glove of Miller for an infield-single. Monell scored to tie the game, 6-6. Miller then walked in a run when issued a free pass to Peguero. Peguero recorded his third RBI of the night as Richmond grabbed the lead back. Miller was removed in favor of right-hander Bryan Price. Kieschnick sent a groundball to first base that was misplayed by Padron. The error allowed Stromsmoe to score to cap the scoring in the ballgame, 8-6.

Miller was saddled with the loss, his fourth of the season, charged with three runs - two earned - in 0.2 innings. Price quieted the Squirrels the rest of the way for Akron.

The Squirrels used three hurlers to nail down the victory. Left-hander Wilmin Rodriguez worked a scoreless inning of relief for the win, and right-hander Mitch Lively followed with a scoreless inning-and-a-third. Right-hander Heath Hembree closed the door to earn his 14th save of the season, retiring the Aeros in order in the ninth inning.

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