The Freedom fell 9-5 at home to drop their second straight game to the Normal CornBelters Wednesday afternoon.
Steve Junker received the start and allowed five runs on nine hits in his five innings of work. The first run he allowed in the top of the fourth inning was the first earned run in the last 17 innings by Freedom starters.
The Freedom offense started off on the right foot once again, as they have scored the first run of each game in 2011. Scorching-hot center fielder Cole Miles led off the game with a triple to deep right-center and came around to score on Juan Valdes' RBI groundout. Miles now has a multi-hit game every time out this season. But for the second straight game against Normal, the Freedom gave up the lead.
Steve Junker started the game off well, throwing three straight scoreless innings, but allowed a two-run home run to Steven Alexander in the top of the fourth to give the CornBelters a one-run advantage. Asif Shaw, the right fielder for Normal, reached on a base hit and came around to score on an RBI double by Brad Augustin.
Jeff Dunbar and Colin Morrow each blasted solo home runs to left field for a 5-1 CornBelters lead in the fifth.
The Freedom were set down in order in the third, fourth, and fifth innings. In the top of the sixth, Normal added another run when Brad Augustin scored on a wild pitch by Freedom reliever Alex Cann.
Florence got back on the board with a run in the top of the seventh on a Stephen Shults blast to left-center. Shults, the Frontier League home run leader in 2010, played in his first game for the Freedom this season, as he was activated from the disabled list before the game.
Freedom pitcher Mike Hanley gave up Normal's fourth home run of the game in the eighth, a three-run shot by Jeff Dunbar that gave the CornBelters a seven-run lead.
That three-run homer would be needed as insurance when Jimmy Baker jacked a three-run home run of his own to left field to cut the Normal lead to 9-5. The homer was the sixth of the game between the two teams. Corey Martin pitched a scoreless ninth, but the Freedom couldn't come back and fall to 3-2 this season.
Junker received the loss and is now 0-1 while Jon Berger earned the win and improves to 1-0. The Freedom and CornBelters wrap up the three-game series Thursday night at 7:05. Preston Vancil (1-0, 1.50), the Florence opening day starter, will start his second game of the season against Ryan Sheldon (0-1, 1.29).