FLORENCE, Ky. — The Gateway Grizzlies fell behind 3-0 in the first inning Friday night and trailed for the entirety of a 14-3 loss to the Florence Freedom in the series opener at UC Health Stadium.
Gateway (36-52) dropped its third straight and has allowed eight first-inning runs over the aforementioned three-game skid.
Florence (45-43) won its second in a row on the strength of two home runs in the first three innings; the Grizzlies have allowed nine long balls over their three-game losing streak and 95 round-trippers total in 88 games this season.
Mike Elwood (6-8) took the loss for the Grizzlies. He allowed nine runs (eight earned) over 4 1/3 innings and struck out one.
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Chris Metrick tossed a perfect seventh inning with two strikeouts.
With the game out of hand, Grizzlies shortstop Brent Sakurai moved to the pitcher’s mound in the eighth inning for his fourth pitching appearance of the season. Sakurai allowed a single but no runs over one inning of work and struck out a Freedom batter. Over 4 2/3 innings in 2018, Sakurai’s 3.86 ERA is seventh-best on the Grizzlies’ roster and better than the overall team ERA. He has struck out four opposing hitters and walked none.
The only two runs against Sakurai have come on separate solo home runs from Normal CornBelters first baseman Chris Iriart, whose 23 big flies are tied for the most in the Frontier League.
Blake Brown stood out at the plate in a 2-for-4 performance with a pair of doubles and three runs driven in to give him the club lead in two-baggers (20) and RBIs (57).
Gateway and Florence will play game two of their three-game series Saturday at 5:05 p.m. CDT.