FLORENCE, Ky. -- The River City Rascals won a back-and-forth series opener 11-7 over the Florence Freedom on Friday night. Zach Lavy homered twice in the victory, including a crucial two-run shot in the top of the ninth to put the Rascals up four. With the win, the Rascals secured at least a season series tie with the Freedom.
The Rascals scored five runs in the first inning, sending all nine men to the plate and getting an RBI double from Trevor Achenbach, a two-run double from LJ Kalawaia, and a two-run homer from James Morisano. The Freedom scored four in the second, getting a three-run double from Jackson Pritchard and an RBI single Austin Wobrock. Lavy made it 6-4 Rascals with a solo shot in the fourth, and Morisano added a two-run double in the fifth.
The Freedom got an RBI single from Taylor Bryant in the seventh, and after Nolan Meadows got the run back with an RBI fielder's choice in the top of the eighth, the Freedom answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame, cutting the lead to two. Rascals reliever Andrew Vernon struck out Pritchard with two outs and a man on second following an RBI single from Isaac Benard and an RBI groundout from Trevor Craport. After Lavy's blast gave the Rascals the 11-7 lead in the top of the ninth, closer Jason Zgardowski struck out the side in order in the bottom of the inning to seal the win.
Rascals starter Alex Winkelman was lifted in the second inning due to injury, allowing four runs on the night. Travis McQueen (4-2) earned the win, going 5 1/3 innings out of the Rascals bullpen, allowing three runs while striking out seven hitters without issuing a walk. Freedom starter Hayden Wheeler (1-2) took the loss, allowing eight runs on ten hits over five innings of work.
The Rascals (48-35) play the Freedom (49-35) in the middle game of the series tomorrow night, with first place in the Frontier League's West Division on the line. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. CDT from UC Health Stadium. Taylor Ahearn is expected to make the start for the Rascals.