FLORENCE, Ky. – Florence scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning and went on to defeat the Wild Things 6-1 Saturday night and end Washington’s season in the opening round of the Frontier League playoffs.
Florence won the best-of-5 semifinal series 3-1. The West Division champion Freedom advance to the finals for the first time since 2012 and will play East Division champion Schaumburg beginning Tuesday night.
The Freedom scored four runs (one earned) in the first inning on three hits, three walks and a costly Washington error. The runs came against Washington starter Brian O’Keefe, who pitched into the fourth inning before being relieved by Tyler Garkow. Garkow threw 3 2/3 innings of shutout ball as Washington remained within striking distance of Florence until the eighth inning, when the Freedom tacked on two insurance runs off relief pitcher Aaron Burns.
Florence loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, before Andrew Godbold hit a run-scoring single. Washington right fielder James Harris overran the ball for an error, allowing two more runs to score as Godbold advanced to third base.
Jordan Brower followed with a sacrifice fly that gave Florence a 4-1 lead.
The game could not have started better for Washington as Harris hit a leadoff home run off Florence pitcher Cody Gray.
It was the fifth leadoff homer of the season for Harris and his second in the playoffs.
Gray allowed only two hits, two walks and one run over six innings. He struck out nine.
Washington had a chance to cut into Florence’s 4-1 lead in the top of the eighth, putting runners on first and second with one out before two strikeouts ended the threat.
The Wild Things did not score after the first inning and finished their 16th season in the Frontier League without winning its first championship. Only Sioux City in the American Association has a longer drought without winning a league title in independent baseball.