Richmond, VA (WWBT)- After losing a ninth-inning lead in the series opener, the Richmond Flying Squirrels rode left-hander Mike Kickham to a 5-0 shutout win over the Erie SeaWolves in the second game of the evening at The Diamond. Erie prevailed, 3-2, in the completion of Friday night's suspended game, and Richmond split the quasi-double header.
The Squirrels got on the board first prior to the suspension of the series-opener on Friday night. Just before rains came in the bottom of the second, Juan Perez opened the inning with a single off of Erie left-hander Jared Wesson. Newcomer Mark Minicozzi then rifled a double to center field to bring Perez around for a 1-0 lead. It was the first at-bat as a Flying Squirrel for Minicozzi.
Neither starter continued upon the game's resumption on Saturday. Richmond right-hander Chris Heston worked two scoreless innings, not allowing a hit and walking one. He didn't factor in the decision, but exited the contest having lowered his minor league best ERA to 0.68.
Richmond cashed in their second run in the second inning following the restart. Johnny Monell was at the plate when the game was suspended, and he came back up against right-hander Patrick Cooper. He laced a double to left field, and Minicozzi strolled in for a 2-0 lead. The run was charged to Wesson, who was credited with an inning plus two batters. He was tagged with two runs on three hits, walked one and struck out one.
Left-hander Chris Gloor followed Heston on the mound for the Squirrels and worked four strong innings. He did not allow Erie a run while conceding four hits, walking two and striking out three.
Cooper was equally stingy, turning in five scoreless innings of relief through the sixth inning. Cooper allowed just two hits and struck out five. Right-hander Zach Samuels followed and held the Squirrels at bay through two more innings.
Right-hander Jake Dunning replaced Gloor and turned in two scoreless innings through the eighth inning. The Squirrels held their 2-0 lead into the ninth inning when the wheels fell off. Dunning allowed a lead-off double to Robert Brantly and walked Jordan Lennerton to put the tying runs aboard. Right-handed closer Brett Bochy was summoned, but couldn't finish the SeaWolves. Rawley Bishop greeted him and flared a double into right field to bring in Erie's first run. The double moved the tying run to third base and put the go-ahead run at second base. Bochy struck out Tony Plagman for the first out, but Brandon Douglas decked a two-run triple to right field to allow Erie to overtake the Squirrels, 3-2.
Bochy (3-2) took the loss for the Squirrels, also enduring his third blown save of the season (6-9). The loss marked just the second time (22-2) that Richmond had suffered defeat when leading after eight innings.
Samuels (3-0) took the win for Erie, his third of the year. Right-hander Robbie Weinhardt had little trouble with the Squirrels in the ninth and earned his fourth save of the season.
Richmond wouldn't need the bullpen in the second game, as left-hander Mike Kickham was spectacular over seven two-hit innings. He blanked the SeaWolves for his fourth win of the season, walking just one and striking out eight. Kickham turned in the first complete game of the season from a Richmond pitcher.
The first run of the second game of the series scored in similar fashion to the first. Again, Minicozzi drove home Perez in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. On this occasion, Minicozzi lifted a sacrifice-fly to right field off of Erie right-hander James Avery.
Tommy Joseph sparked the Squirrels as they doubled their lead against Avery in the fourth inning. Joseph led off with a double ripped to center field. A batter later, Perez singled to put runners at the corners with one out in the inning. Monell brought in Joseph for a 2-0 lead when he sent a fielder's choice to second base.
Richmond got back after Avery for three more runs in the fifth inning as they pulled away. Ryan Cavan pulled a single through the right-side of the infield to get the Squirrels started. Gary Brown followed and cracked a double down the third-base line. Richmond had runners at second and third with nobody out and Ehire Adrianza sent a sacrifice-fly into left field to plate Cavan. Brown took third on the play, and scored when Daniel Mayora laid down a successful suicide-squeeze bunt. With the bases clear and two down, Avery created more trouble with a walk issued to Joseph. Juan Ciriaco and Perez supplied back-to-back singles to bring around Joseph for a 5-0 lead.
Avery (5-5) was saddled with the loss in the nightcap, allowing five runs on eight hits over five innings. He walked two and struck out two.
The series will wrap up Sunday afternoon at 2:05pm.