Homers and strikeouts a big part of Curve victory
Saturday: Richmond at Altoona, 6 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Flying Squirrels TBD vs. Curve RHP Quinn Priester (1-1)
Sunday: Richmond at Altoona, 1 p.m.
Radio: WRTA-AM 1240 & 98.5-FM
By Adam Babetski
For the Mirror
Altoona starter Luis Ortiz threw an immaculate inning and the Curve bats out-slugged Richmond in a game where every run was scored via the longball, as the Curve defeated the Flying Squirrels, 4-2, in front of a crowd of 4,613 Friday night.
Altoona got off to a blazing start in the first against Richmond starter Matt Frisbee. Blake Sabol launched a two-run homer, scoring Jared Triolo, and Aaron Shackelford went back-to-back with him to give the Curve a 3-0 lead.
Ortiz, the Curve starter, one-upped the hitters in the top of the second by throwing the third “immaculate inning” in team history. Ortiz struck out Frankie Tostado swinging and Sean Roby looking, before getting Tyler Fitzgerald to whiff to finish the job.
The only other Curve pitchers to accomplish the feat — three strikeouts on nine pitches — were Oddy Nunez on Sept. 4, 2021, and Jeff Bennett on June 7, 2003.
“(I) saw that the other team wasn’t swinging a lot, and (I) attacked the zone with every pitch that I had,” Ortiz said through a translator. “There was great communication between (myself) and the catcher. It was a combination of communication and executing pitches that (I) wanted to.”
Shackelford hit his second home run of the game two innings later, a moonshot that landed on the Skyliner roller coaster in right field.
Ortiz was replaced by Nick Dombkowski to start the fifth inning. The Altoona starter delivered a sterling performance, allowing a single hit and striking out six while throwing just 43 pitches.
Curve manager Kieran Mattison said that Ortiz left the game because of a blister on his finger, and he “didn’t want to make it get worse.”
“We’ve got a little bit more time in between his starts, so the smartest thing to do was to not push him,” he said. “Hopefully he’ll be ready by his next start.”
Tyler Fitzgerald got one of those runs back for Richmond with a solo home run off of Dombkowski to make it 4-1.
Altoona experienced a scary moment in the bottom of the fifth. Liover Peguero was hit with a pitch that ricocheted off of his helmet and into his face, and immediately went to the ground. He was able to walk off the field under his own power, but was replaced with a pinch runner.
Fitzgerald continued to be a one-man wrecking crew for the Flying Squirrels, hitting his second home run of the night in the eighth to cut Altoona’s lead to 4-2.
That was it for Richmond, though, as Tyler Samaniego locked down the save in the ninth, wrapping up the game in a tidy 2 hours and 22 minutes.
Although Peguero’s hit by pitch looked bad on the field, Mattison said that the Curve’s star shortstop only felt dizzy and seems to have avoided a serious injury.
“I came in a couple of innings later to check on him, and he was a lot better, he didn’t have a headache,” he said. “We’ll just monitor him for the next 24 hours, but I believe he’ll be fine.”
Back to back … again
Sabol and Shackelford’s back-to-back home runs marked the second such performance for Altoona against Richmond this season. Shackelford starred along with Andres Alvarez in a 19-8 Curve win over the Flying Squirrels on May 22.
Christmas comes early
The Curve celebrated “Christmas in July” on Friday, complete with a snow globe featuring Altoona’s mascot, Loco. Richmond players were portrayed as being on the “Naughty List” on the scoreboard, sporting photoshops of the Heat Miser and Ebenezer Scrooge.