The Normal CornBelters began a six-game road trip on a sour note, losing 5-3 to the Florence Freedom in Florence, Kentucky on Sunday evening. The loss was the seventh straight for the CornBelters.
The CornBelters scratched out the game's first run in the opening inning. Brandon Newton chopped a double into the right field corner, and scored when a ground ball from Frank Martinez was thrown away by Freedom pitcher Steve MacFarland.
The Freedom quickly answered in the bottom of the first, as Juan Valdes led off with a single, moved to third on a base hit by Jarred Frierson and scored on a ground out by Chris Curley to tie the game at 1-1.
The Belters punched back in the second thanks to four free passes. Daniel Cox was hit by a pitch to lead off, followed by a walk to Mike Mobbs. Jeff Dunbar sacrificed them to second and third, and a walk to Tyler McNeely loaded the bases. A ground ball retired Cox at home for the second out, but Brandon Newton drew the inning's third walk to score a run to give the Belters a 2-1 lead.
Normal got a rare bit of power from Alvaro Ramirez to increase the lead to 3-1 in the fourth with his first home run of the season over the left-center field wall.
Florence got to CornBelters starter Michael Click in the fifth to take the lead. A leadoff walk to Jonathan Cisneros was followed by a double by Jonathan Smith, then Cisneros scored on wild pitch. Junior Arrojo was hit by a pitch, then Jarred Frierson cleared the bases with a three-run homer to right to put the Freedom up 5-3 after five innings.
In the ninth, the CornBelters led off with a single from Brandon Newton, who moved to second on a liner off the leg of reliever Brandon Mathes by Frank Martinez, although Mathes was able to recover to retire Martinez. Newton stayed at second, however, as reliever Zeb Engle came in and struck out Steve Alexander and Asif Shah to end the game.
The CornBelters mustered only three hits on the game and stranded 11 baserunners. Newton recorded two of the hits in addition to the homer by Ramirez.
MacFarland earned his first decision with the win, and Click (0-1) received the loss. Engle recorded his first save.
The series continues with a late-morning contest in suburban Cincinnati at the Home of the Florence Freedom with an 10:05 a.m. Central first pitch. Brett Lester (4-4, 4.43) is the expected starting pitcher for the CornBelters.