FLORENCE, KY. (WFIE) - In his first game as an Otter, Elijah MacNamee hit the go-ahead RBI in the top of the 10th inning to give the Evansville Otters a 5-4 win Sunday, clinching the series against the Florence Freedom.
Florence and Evansville, who hold the two best records in the Frontier League, went back and forth in Sunday’s rubber match.
In the bottom of the first inning, Florence struck first as Andre Mercurio hit an RBI single to score Austin Wobrock and give Florence the early lead.
Evansville would respond in the top of the second when J.J. Gould hit a hard groundball to Wobrock at shortstop. Wobrock committed an error as the ball went through his glove, allowing Rob Calabrese to score and tie the game at one.
In the top of the third, Keith Grieshaber singled to lead off the inning, extending his hitting streak to 16 games.
Ryan Long would drive Grieshaber in on a double, collecting his fourth RBI of the series, and pushing the Otters ahead 2-1.
In the bottom of the third, Florence’s Connor Crane hit a solo home run, his fifth RBI of the series, off Otters starter Tyler Beardsley to even the game at 2-2.
Crane picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Brandon Pugh on a single that gave the Freedom a 3-2 lead.
The Otters would reclaim the lead in the top of the sixth on back-to-back RBI hits by Gould, scoring Rob Calabrese, and David Cronin, scoring Gould, to put the Otters back in front 4-3.
Both RBI hits came with two outs for the Otters.
Cronin’s single would force Florence to pull starter Mike Castellani. The Freedom lefty threw 5.2 innings, allowing four runs - three earned - on 10 hits while having five strikeouts.
Otters starter Tyler Beardsley was able to get out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth, stranding two runners at second and third to keep the Otters ahead.
Beardsley tossed six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits.
Otters reliever Drew Beyer came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh and was able to strikeout Crane for the first out, but the next batter in Isaac Bernard hit a solo home run to tie the game 4-4.
Beyer ran into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded and no outs.
Beyer stayed strong, striking out pinch hitter Jackson Pritchard and Crane, followed by Bernard flying out to Grieshaber in left to end the threat.
Both Florence’s closer, Johnathan Tripp, and Evansville’s closer, Taylor Wright, pitched scoreless half innings in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.
Carlos Castro led off the top of the tenth for the Otters with a single and was pinch ran for by Jack Meggs.
The turning point in the inning came when Calabrese was at the plate and Freedom reliever Karl Craigie committed a throwing error that allowed Meggs to go first to third on a failed pickoff attempt.
Calabrese drew a walk to put runners on the corners for the Otters and no outs.
Two batters later, the newly acquired MacNamee was able to drive a ball deep enough to right field to allow Meggs to score the go-ahead run on a sac fly and give the Otters a 5-4 edge.
The Freedom did not go without one last effort in the bottom of the tenth, leading off with back-to-back singles by Ricky Ramirez Jr. and Luis Pintor, but Evansville’s all-star closer would buckle down.
Wright got Pugh to hit a groundball to Gould, taking the ball himself to second for the first out and throwing on to first for the second out, turning a 6-3 double play.
With Ramirez advancing and standing at third with two outs, representing the game-tying run, Wright struck out Pritchard to seal the 5-4 win and series win for the Otters.
Wright picked up his third win of the season after getting wins on May 22 at Gateway in a 14-11, 12-inning win and on June 15 in a 7-6 win against Schaumburg. Wright now has 39 strikeouts and a 0.86 ERA in 2019.
Craigie was given the loss, dropping his record to 4-2.
The Otters are one of two teams to defeat the Florence Freedom in a series, and the only team to take multiple series against the Freedom, winning all three series meetings this season.
The Otters will travel to Joliet, Ill. to take on the Joliet Slammers beginning Tuesday, July 23 with first pitch at 7:05 p.m.
Broadcast coverage can be found on the radio at 91.5 WUEV-FM or at evansvilleotters.com with Dave Nguyen on the call.
The Otters are celebrating their 25th anniversary season in 2019.
The Otters’ next homestand will be July 26-28 against the Windy Thunderbolts. Friday is presented by Kyndle and the American Cancer Society. Saturday is sponsored by A.R.G and Gray Loon Marketing for 90s Night. Sunday is presented by Gilda’s Club.
To purchase a season ticket or group outing package, call (812) 435-8686 or visit the Bosse Field front office at 23 Don Mattingly Way, Evansville, Ind. The front office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Evansville Otters are the 2006 and 2016 Frontier League champions.
The Otters play all home games at historic Bosse Field, located at 23 Don Mattingly Way in Evansville, Ind. Stay up-to-date with the Evansville Otters by visiting evansvilleotters.com, or follow the Otters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.