Three-run advantage not enough for Curve

RICHMOND, Va. – Exactly one year ago Friday, on April 11, 2013, the Curve last moved above .500 with a 4-3 record.

The rest of last season was miserable, as the team finished 63-79.

One year later, the Curve entered the ninth inning in great shape to finally get back above .500 with, ironically, a 4-3 record. They took a three-run lead into the ninth inning, but Richmond rallied for four runs in its final at-bat for a 5-4 win at The Diamond.

Curve shortstop Alen Hanson charged in and booted a chopping bouncer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. It was ruled an infield single for Matt Duffy, bringing home the tying run from third, and when the ball bounced away from Hanson for the error, Tyler Graham scored all the way from second to end the game.

Altoona had grabbed a 4-1 lead in the eighth inning. Stetson Allie reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second before scoring the go-ahead run on a single by Mel Rojas Jr. Willy Garcia then ripped a two-run homer for what appeared to be a commanding cushion.

The bottom of the ninth started out well for the Curve as reliever A.J. Morris struck out the first hitter, walked the second and got a forceout on the third. Richmond had just the lone baserunner on first with two outs, then put together a big rally to steal the win.

Skyler Stromsmoe singled, and Morris was lifted after 2 2/3 innings of relief. Matt Benedict came on trying to close it out but could not deliver and blew the save.

Benedict (0-1) hit Ricky Oropesa, and Graham doubled home two runs to cut Altoona’s lead to 4-3. Duffy followed with the grounder to Hanson at shortstop, but Hanson’s error ended the night in dubious fashion for the Curve.

Derek Law (1-0) won in relief for the Flying Squirrels.

Nick Kingham turned in a second straight strong outing for the Curve, giving up one run on three hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Game recap

Key player: Richmond CF Tyler Graham went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, two runs and scored the game winner.

Key play: Curve SS Alen Hanson couldn’t field a ball cleanly with two outs in the ninth, and two runs scored to give Richmond the win.

Key stat: The Curve had a chance to go above .500 for the first time in exactly one year.

How they scored

Top 1st: Ngoepe singled, scored on Allie double (1-0).

Bottom 6th: Graham tripled, scored on Duffy double (1-1).

Top 8th: Allie reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Rojas single (2-1); Garcia two-run homer scored Rojas (4-1).

Bottom 9th: Sim reached on fielder’s choice, Stromsmoe singled, both scored on Graham double (4-3); Tomlinson pinch ran, scored along with Graham on Duffy infield single and Hanson error (4-5).