Down to their final strike, the Normal CornBelters rallied for four runs in the ninth and held on to break a seven-game losing streak and beat the Florence Freedom 7-4 on Monday afternoon in Florence, Kentucky.
For the second straight game, the CornBelters struck first in the opening inning. Alvaro Ramirez was hit by a pitch, followed by a base hit from Frank Martinez and a walk to Daniel Cox to load the bases.. Ramirez scored on a ground ball to the left side by Asif Shah.
The Freedom grabbed a 2-1 lead in the third inning. Normal pitcher Brett Lester hit Junior Arroyo, who stole second and scored on a base hit by Jarrod Frierson. Chris Curley then doubled to score Frierson with two outs.
Florence added two more runs in the fourth after two were out. Lester hit Jonathan Cisneros and walked Kevin Haas to start the inning. With two outs, Juan Valdes walked to load the bases, and Jarred Frierson looped a shallow fly ball down the left field line to score two runs and give the Freedom a 4-1 lead.
The CornBelters scored in the fifth when Tyler McNeely led off with a walk and moved to third on Andrew Barbaro's second hit of the day. Alvaro Ramirez singled home McNeely to cut the Belters deficit to 4-2, but Normal stranded the remaining two runners.
The Belters got one run back in the fifth, thanks to a double by Mike Mobbs with one out, followed by an RBI single by Tyler McNeely. A following single by Andrew Barbaro put runners on first and second with two outs, but the Belters couldn't score again in the frame and trailed 4-3.
The Freedom threatened in the seventh, but two runners were cut down at the plate with outfield assists from Alvaro Ramirez and Tyler McNeely to Andrew Barbaro to hold Florence scoreless and keep their advantage at just one run at 4-3.
Normal kept the game alive with a two-out rally in the ninth. Frank Martinez and Daniel Cox walked, and Martinez came home with a single up the middle by Asif Shah to tie the game 4-4. That chased reliever Chad Robinson from the game, but Mike Mobbs welcome Freedom pitcher Zeb Engle with a double to the left field corner to score two more runs, then Tyler Keeble scored Mobbs with a base hit to right to give the CornBelters a 7-4 lead.
Andy Mee (0-1) picked up the win as Marshall Schuler pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth for his fourth save. Chad Robinson took the loss to fall to 2-2.
The series concludes at 6 p.m. Central on Tuesday at the Home of the Florence Freedom as Ryan Sheldon (6-4, 3.04) starts on the mound for the CornBelters against Andy Clark (7-2, 4.15) for the Freedom.