Myworld travelled south to the Diamond to watch the Richmond Flying Squirrels host the Trenton Thunder. Justin Fitzgerald, third in the Eastern League ERA race tamed the Thunder bats in their 5-1 win. Down in Richmond they really know how to entertain the fans, which may be why they lead the Eastern League in attendance.
The Thunder got to Fitzgerald early, all the result of poor defense. Jose Pirella hit a high chop to third baseman Mark Minicozzi, who snagged it backing up but overthrew the firstbaseman. Tyler Austin lined a ball to center. Ryan Lollis made a poor choice to dive for the ball, or tried to do his best imitation of the Flying Squirrel. The ball skipped past him and rolled to the wall, Pirella scoring the first run with Austin stopping at second. Fitzgerald buckled down getting Kyle Roller on a check swing third strike and coaxing Slade Heathcott to go fishing on a curveball in the dirt for another strikeout stranding Austin at third.
The Squirrels lost a scoring opportunity in the first. Joe Panik slapped a one out single. Mark Minicozzi followed with a shot down the right field line. Panik should have scored easily on the hit but fell flat on his face rounding third. He had to return to third where he was left stranded. After a walk loaded the bases Ricky Oropesa flied to shallow left field and Brett Krill grounded to short.
The Squirrels got to Caleb Cotham in the third. Javier Herrera started the rally lining a double over the third base bag. A one out walk to Minicozzi put runners on first and third with one out. Andrew Susac drove one deep to right field. Neil Medchill tracked the ball poorly, backtracking after the ball to watch it sail over his glove. Herrera scored on the hit. With two out Brett Krill and Jarrett Parker hit back to back RBI singles to make it 3-1. A walk loaded the bases, setting up a 2-run single from Ryan Lollis, who made up for his defensive miscue in the first. Herrera batted for the second time in the inning, swinging at a 3-0 pitch and popping it up to the shortstop for the final out. Cotham did not come out to pitch the fourth inning.
The Squirrels defense again got them in trouble in the seventh on two high throws. Fitzgerald made a high throw to first and Oropesa could not bring the glove down to make the tag. Kevin Mahoney hit a ground ball to Oropesa, who instead of taking the easy out at first tried to turn to make the throw to second, sailing it to pull Joe Panik off the second base bag. Fitzgerald was able to get out of the inning with two ground outs.
The Squirrels went to their bullpen in the eighth inning. Lefty submariner Phil McCormick looked nasty facing lefthanded hitters. Kyle Roller took a called third strike to end the eighth. Slade Heathcott made a poor swing on a curveball to lead off the ninth, his third whiff of the day. Neil Medchill made it three straight whiffs against lefties. Righthander Ali Castillo hit the ball hard, grounding a two out single past the shortstop. Lefty Kevin Mahoney grounded a ball weakly to short to end the game.
Game Notes: Thunder had back to back singles to start the fifth. Ramon Flores grounded to first baseman Ricky Oropesa. Nick McCoy hesitated from first, was tagged out by Oropesa, who then made the short trot to first to complete the double play…Justin Fitzgerald struck out five hitters in the first two innings. After that 12 of the next 15 outs were the result of ground outs, including two double plays. Another out was his sixth strikeout…Mark Minicozzi has a unique walk up song. Frank Sinatra and “Fly me to the Moon”…For whatever reason the Squirrels have a Pirate just past the first base stands, who gets raised up on a plank when the Squirrels get a runner on base. When they score a run a Pirate flag is raised…The Squirrels also have a Viking that walks onto the field after a win. They call him the Victory Viking…Other between inning escapdes include rolling a pig named Parker along the infield border in a cart. The pig appeared very calm as he was being raced along the field by an intern in a John Denver farmer outfit. Interns were throwing pig noses to the crowd. The also have Flingo the Flamingo, an intern strapped inside a plastic flamingo who throws hot dogs into the crowd. That appears to be an imitation of the vendor in Reading who rides an ostrich and shoots hot dogs into the stands. There are also the racing peanuts, a cashew, a walnut and a regular peanut. Bags of peanuts are thrown into the stands as part of the promotion. The regular peanut won. As if this isn’t enough entertainment they have the Molly Maid drag queens, which were four women and one man dressed in hula skirts dragging the infield. They also do a dance in the middle of the field manicure to whatever song was playing at the time (not YMCA)…The Richmond mascot is named Nutzy the Flying Squirrel. It appears his head is too big. Whoever was wearing the suit need to keep their hand on the head to see out of the slot in the costume…When entering the stadium you are treated to live music. That was a pretty neat touch…Whack the intern had a good name, but the execution was poor. This is where a kid has a plastic hammer and the four interns stick their head out of a slot and the kid whacks the interns with this hammer. Each intern represents a section of the field and the intern whacked the most wins a prize for that section of the field. Counting the number of whacks each intern received seemed pretty random…Before the game the team held a moment of silence for the death of Virginia Commonwealth coach Paul Keyes. The Diamond is also the home park for VCU. Keyes died at 50 years of age from stage 4 Melanoma. He wore uniform number five and many of the players raised their hands holding out five fingers. His son threw out the first pitch showing potential to be a pretty good baseball player with a rifle of an arm.23d9