FLORENCE, S.C. – Maybe it was fatigue from the doubleheader the night before in Macon, but the Florence RedWolves' offense found itself in a very specific rut Friday against Lexington County.
Getting runners on base wasn’t an issue – but getting them in was.
The RedWolves had the leadoff batter reach base in each of the first seven innings but wound up leaving 13 men on base throughout the night. Combined with a pair of three-run innings by the Blowfish, it all led to Lexington earning a 9-3 victory at Sparrow Stadium.
Florence fell to 13-20 overall and 3-4 in the second half while the Blowfish improved to 13-21 and 6-3 in the second half. They also gained a game in the I-20 Series, which now sits at 5-3 in the RedWolves’ favor.
The two teams meet again at 7:05 p.m. today in Lexington as Florence looks to try to end a three-game losing streak.
On Monday, the RedWolves will host Savannah in a modified doubleheader. The July 5th game in Savannah was suspended in the third inning because of rain with the Bananas leading 6-1.
That regular nine-inning game will be completed starting at 6 p.m. Half an hour after that game is finished, the two teams will play a seven-inning contest.
In the meantime, Florence looks to find answers on offense as it has scored just seven runs in its last three games.
“We left too many guys on early,” RedWolves coach Ryan Vruggink said of Friday's contest. “We had chances to score early and get momentum in the game but we didn’t.
“Guys were tired. We didn’t get back until 5 (a.m.) this morning, so it was going to be a long day. I told the guys to go home, get some sleep, get their feet under them and be ready to go (Saturday).”
The offense wasn’t helped by LC starter Brett Fulk (2-3) – whose strategy to keep the RedWolves’ run game in check and their hitters off balance was to hold the ball until the last possible moment between pitches.
It seemed to work, however. He worked around a two-on, no-out jam in the first inning with two strikeouts and negated a double-steal in the fourth with another punchout and a routine grounder to short.
“I know it’s frustrating to watch, but he did a good job of controlling our running game by doing it so hats off to him,” Vruggink said.
Fulk went six innings and allowed no earned runs on four hits with seven strikeouts and four walks. The only blemish against him came in the sixth when Brandon McIlwain scored on a fielder’s choice not long after a Lexington County error.
In the meantime, the Blowfish built a 3-0 lead through five innings. RedWolves starter and Francis Marion reliever Patrick Orlando made his team debut and went four solid innings.
He allowed four hits and two runs – both of which came on James McConnon’s single in the third. Orlando (0-1) also struck out one batter and walked none.
The Blowfish scored another run in the fifth off Florence reliever Duncan Callahan. Callahan walked the first three batters he faced, but Michael Green’s sacrifice fly was the only run he allowed after striking out the last two batters. McConnon and Green led Lexington with two hits each.
After the RedWolves scratched across a run in the sixth, things unraveled in the top of the seventh. Four walks, three wild pitches and two throwing errors led to a three-run outburst by Lexington as it took control, 6-1.
“You can’t do that and expect to win,” Vruggink said. “We’ve got to do a better job of controlling that and making them beat us.”
Eldrige Figueroa greeted LC reliever Slater O’Brien with a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh, stole third and came home to score on a balk as the RedWolves cut the deficit to 6-2. Figueroa was the lone Florence player with multiple hits as he was 2 for 2 with two walks.
Derek Neal collected his first hit as a RedWolves player next inning with an RBI single to score Miguel Soto, but that was as close as Florence got the rest of the way.
The Blowfish added three more insurance runs in the ninth on Zacchaeus Rasberry’s RBI groundout and RBI singles by Tristen Hudson and Trace Whetsell.