CURVE, Pa. - Gift Ngoepe laid down a perfect squeeze that plated Alen Hanson in the eighth inning to put the Curve up one before Ryan Beckman nailed it down in the ninth as the Curve downed the Squirrels, 2-1, on Friday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field. With the win, Altoona will look to win its first series this season in the 1 p.m. finale Saturday afternoon.
The Curve took their first lead of the series in the bottom of the second inning. After Willy Garcia hit a one-out double to right, Elias Diaz continued his hot hitting by hitting a single to center that scored Garcia from second. Diaz finished the ballgame 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and upped his batting average to .424.
The 1-0 lead for Altoona lasted until the sixth inning. After an error by the Curve put runners on the corners with one out, Kelby Tomlinson hit a sacrifice fly that scored Ryan Lollis from third ad tied up the game at one. That run scoring took a potential win away from Tyler Sample, who worked five scoreless innings on Friday night and left in line for a win before the Squirrels tied it in the sixth.
That set the stage for the heroics in the eighth. With one down, Alen Hanson sliced a ball that was moving toward the right-field line and away from Squirrels RF Jarrett Parker. Parker laid out for the ball and came up empty as the ball rolled all the way to the wall and allowed Hanson to speed into third. The speedy shortstop then broke for home with Gift Ngoepe putting down a textbook squeeze bunt out in front of the plate. Hanson scored and the Curve had the lead back.
Beckman came on to pitch the ninth and got the first out of the inning before the next two Squirrels hitters reached base. The Texas native zeroed in from there and retired Parker on a fly out to center before striking out Ricky Oropesa to end the game.
Jhonathan Ramos (1-1), who pitched a scoreless top of the eighth grabbed the win for the Curve while Phil McCormick (0-3) took the loss for Richmond after giving up the run in the bottom of the eighth.
Altoona (5-8) will conclude the series with Richmond (9-6) at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon from Peoples Natural Gas Field. Saturday afternoon's game will feature an appearance by Pittsburgh Steelers' Defensive End Cam Heyward presented by WTAJ and Holiday Inn Express. Heyward, a first round draft pick by the Steelers in 2011, will sign autographs for fans for two hours during the game and throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Prior to the game with Richmond, area youth can partake in a Youth Baseball Clinic from 10 a.m. to noon for free with the purchase of a ticket to the game later in the day. The clinic is taught by Curve players and will have registration beginning at 9 a.m. After the game, kids can run the bases.
Taking the mound for the Curve in Saturday's matinee will be LHP Joely Rodriguez (0-1, 7.00), who is looking to avenge a loss last Sunday in Richmond. He'll be opposed by the Giants top prospect in Kyle Crick (1-0, 2.35)
Gates open at noon while airtime on ESPN Radio 1430, WVAM and the Curve Radio Network is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit AltoonaCuve.com, call 877.99.CURVE, or stop by the box office at Peoples Natural Gas Field.