AKRON -- The Akron Aeros (25-14) used a season-high eight-run fourth inning and five and one-third innings of one-run ball by starter Giovanni Soto to beat the Richmond Flying Squirrels (20-22) 15-5.
The Aeros opened the game hot after posting a season-high 16 runs on Friday. Center fielder Tim Fedroff opened the game with an opposite field single and moved to third on a double by left fielder Ben Copeland. After a strikeout, Fedroff scored on a wild pitch by Richmond starter Justin Fitzgerald. Copeland scored after a throwing error by third baseman Daniel Mayora to make the score 2-0.
Fitzgerald (3-2, 4.25) struggled through three and one-third innings before handing the ball to an equally ineffective bullpen. He allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and two walks while striking out four.
After adding another run in the third, Akron put the game out of reach in the fourth inning, sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring eight.
With second baseman Ryan Rohlinger on first, third baseman Kyle Bellows homered to left-center to make the score 5-1. With the bases loaded, first baseman Chun Chen singled to score one. Juan Diaz followed with a two-RBI double to make the score 8-1. Right fielder Thomas Neal hit the Aeros’ third extra-base hit of the inning with a two-RBI triple to make the score 10-1. Neal later scored on Mayora’s second error of the game.
“Anytime you have an opportunity to run together an inning like that and score eight runs that’s something that’s really good to have,” said Akron Aeros manager Chris Tremie. “They made a couple mistakes but we capitalized on those mistakes.”
Akron continued to pile on with three more runs in the fifth. Copeland hit his second double of the night with one out, scoring on designated hitter Adam Abraham’s single. After two more singles to load the bases and with Neal at the plate, Richmond reliever Jake Dunning threw a wild pitch, allowing all three runners to advance. Neal singled to score two more, making the score 14-1.
Neal was 3-for-5 with a triple and four runs batted in. He has seven hits in his last three games to raise his average to .291.
“I was just trying to go up there and have quality at-bats,” said Neal. “One thing about baseball is that hitting is pretty contagious. As a group, we lost one of our best hitters in Goedert going up to Columbus and I think everyone realizes that each individual needs to step up to keep winning ball games.”
Neal, an active Twitter user, recently banned himself from the social media website until he raises his average to .300 and has 25 runs batted in. After the game, Neal said so far so good.
“It’s going all right so far,” said Neal. “I’m focused on what I need to do right now. I’m getting close to my goals to get back on there, but my main focus is on baseball.”
The Aeros added one more run in the seventh to make the score 15-1.
“These guys have been hitting all year, but they just really stepped it up,” said Tremie. “Up and down the lineup everyone’s swinging the bat well.”
The Richmond bullpen did not provide relief, allowing seven runs on ten hits and two walks. Three relievers failed to strike out an Akron batter.
Soto (4-2, 4.10) worked five and one-third innings without his best stuff, allowing one run while scattering three hits and three walks. He struck out three while making 89 pitches (49 strikes).
“He battled, went through five and a third innings and gave up one run,” said Tremie. “He threw the ball okay, his command was a little erratic at times, but he showed some guts competing and staying out there.”
Jose De La Torre and Preston Guilmet combined for two and two-thirds innings of relief, allowing no runs on two hits and one walk while striking out four.
Richmond mounted a mini-comeback attempt in the ninth against Kyle Landis, scoring four runs to make the final score 15-5. Landis, who entered the game with a .84 ERA, was knocked around for the first time this season.
The Akron Aeros will look for the sweep over Flying Squirrels on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Left-hander T.J. McFarland (7-1, 1.86) will look for his Eastern League leading eighth win of the season against Richmond’s Craig Wescott (3-3, 4.08). After the game, the Aeros will head to New Jersey for a series against the Trenton Thunder.
Notes: The Aeros have scored 31 runs in the series. ... Akron’s 2-3-4-5-6 hitters all had three hits. ... Every Aeros starter scored a run in the game. ... Chun Chen has seven hits in his last two games. ... Kyle Bellows hit his second homer in two games and has three on the season. ... Announced attendance: 4,104.
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.