Squirrels fall to Akron in series opener

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Juan Ciriaco went 2-for-3 with a triple, a home run and three RBIs, but Matt Packer allowed just two unearned runs on five hits in six innings pitched in his first Double-A start of the season as the Akron Aeros (59-39) defeated the Richmond Flying Squirrels (50-49), 4-3, in the opener of a four-game series at The Diamond Thursday night.

Richmond center fielder Gary Brown went 2-for-4 with a double to extend his consecutive on-base streak to 35 games, the third-longest on-base streak in the Eastern League this season.

Akron struck first with four runs in the opening frame. Tyler Holt singled to start the inning and he advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Matt Lawson. Two batters later, Hotlt scored on former Squirrel Thomas Neal's RBI single. Neal stole second base and Squirrels starter Chris Gloor issued a walk to Adam Abraham. Ryan Rohlinger followed with an RBI double that plated Neal and enabled Abraham to reach third base. Then, Jordan Henry reached on a fielding error by Richmond first baseman Mark Minicozzi, which allowed Abraham and Rohlinger to score and extend Akron's lead to 4-0.

The Flying Squirrels scored twice in the bottom of the second to cut Akron's lead in half. Minicozzi singled to start the inning and he advanced to second base when Juan Perez reached on a fielding error by Aeros shortstop Davis Stoneburner. Russ Mitchell reached on a force out, which erased Minicozzi at third and resulted in a collision at first base that caused Mitchell to exit the ballgame with an injury. After Packer struck out Ryan Cavan, Ciriaco ripped a two-run triple to right field, which made it a 4-2 contest.

From that point forward, both starting pitchers found their rhythm on the mound. Gloor tossed four and 2/3 scoreless innings after giving up four runs - only two of which were earned - in the opening frame. Meanwhile, Packer worked four scoreless frames after Richmond's two-run second inning.

Ciriaco belted a solo home run - his first since joining Richmond June 2 - off Akron reliever Kyle Landis in the bottom of the eighth to pull Richmond within a run of the Aeros at 4-3. But the Aeros turned to Jose De La Torre and closer Preston Guilmet, who combined to hold the Flying Squirrels scoreless through the final one and 2/3 innings.

Packer (1-0) earned the win after limiting the Flying Squirrels to five hits and two unearned runs in six innings pitched. Gloor (2-2) suffered his first loss in five starts since he joined the starting rotation last month. Guilmet earned his 16th save of the season.

The Squirrels will seek to end their two-game slide when they take on the Aeros in game two of the four-game series Friday night at The Diamond. First pitch is slated for 7:05 PM. Richmond will send RHP Craig Westcott (8-6, 3.67) to the mound. Akron is expected to counter with LHP Giovanni Soto (6-6, 3.73).

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