Senators can’t scale Mt. Early Deficit, fall 5-3 to Flying Squirrels

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Some mountains are too tall to climb. A Richmond three-run third inning put the Flying Squirrels on a 5-1 peak the Harrisburg Senators could never reach on Sunday afternoon at FNB Field.

Making his first start as a Senator, Kyle McGowin allowed a single run in each of the first two innings before the Flying Squirrels struck for the deciding runs in the third frame. Two singles and a hit batsman loaded the bases with one out for Tyler Horan. On a 2-2 pitch, the Richmond rightfielder drilled a double down the first base line that cleared the bases and gave the Flying Squirrels a lead they would never relinquish.

Harrisburg had multiple opportunities late but couldn’t come through with the equalizer.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Senators rallied against Richmond starter Jose Flores and two relievers as they pushed a run across on a passed ball with the bases full. After a walk to Khayyan Norfork reloaded the bases, pinch-hitter Mario Lisson battled in a 10-pitch at-bat but grounded out to end the threat.

“We had the right guy up at the right time,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “I didn’t think that guy (Richmond reliever Jarret Martin) could throw him four fastballs for strikes in that 3-2 count but he did. Mario just missed it.”

An inning later, speedster Darian Sandford led off the frame with a walk but was thrown out at home on an Isaac Ballou double into the gap. The Senators would get another one back though when Ballou scored easily on a wild pitch.

In the eighth and ninth innings, Harrisburg would at least bring the tying run up to the plate but that was as close as they would get.

*****

Sunday was another example of the Senators being offensively dormant for much of the game until the late innings when they grinded at-bats and put pressure on the Richmond bullpen each inning.

“I like what we did at the end from the sixth through the ninth,” LeCroy said. “I think we can build off what we’re doing later. We just have to try and do that earlier.”

In some cases, you have to credit the opposing starter. Flores previously had a five-inning, one-hit outing against the Senators this season, so it was no surprise to see him in control for most of the game. But there’s no doubt the Harrisburg batters can improve their approaches at the plate from the first pitch on.

“We need to realize we have to make guys work, make them throw strikes,“ LeCroy said. “When you put pressure on them, bottom line is you make them throw more pitches. With runners on, it makes the game a lot different. The really good teams that win championships that’s what they do to their opponents. They wear them down.”

*****

R.C. Orlan, Jimmy Cordero, and Ryan Brinley combined for four scoreless innings of relief…Neftali Soto went 3-for-4 with a walk to raise his batting average to .326, tied for third best in the Eastern League…Sandford stole another base, his third in as many games, but was also caught stealing on the very next pitch when he tried to swipe third base…the Senators now head out on the road for their annual six-game road trip to New Hampshire and Portland.

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