TAMPA, Fla. – Close, but no cigar.
The Tampa Tarpons (27-19) failed to gain any ground on the Bradenton Marauders (30-18), splitting Sunday’s doubleheader at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Tarpons were victorious in the opener, but that momentum did not carry into the nightcap. Sunday’s doubleheader concludes their six-game
TAMPA, Fla. – Close, but no cigar.
The Tampa Tarpons (27-19) failed to gain any ground on the Bradenton Marauders (30-18), splitting Sunday’s doubleheader at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Tarpons were victorious in the opener, but that momentum did not carry into the nightcap. Sunday’s doubleheader concludes their six-game set, which they split three games apiece. The Tarpons sit two games behind the Marauders for first place in the FSL West Division and the final playoff spot.
The Tarpons used a five-run fifth inning to propel themselves past the Marauders in game one, 7-4. RHP Tyrone Yulie drew the start for Tampa and struck out nine batters through 4.1 innings pitched. The right-hander gave up a total of four earned runs, including two immediately in the top of the first.
Tsung-Che Cheng began the game with a lead-off triple to left field and came around to score on a passed ball by C Antonio Gomez. With two on and two out, Norkis Marcos ripped a line drive RBI-single to center to put Bradenton ahead 2-0.
The Tarpons were able to get one of those runs back in the bottom half of the first. CF Spencer Jones and SS Alexander Vargas lined back-to-back singles to open the frame. With both runners in scoring position, Gomez skied a sacrifice fly to Sergio Campana in center field to put Tampa on the board.
Jones tied the game in the next inning with a sharp line drive double to right field which scored 2B Brett Barrera. Both Jones and Vargas finished the night with three hits.
Two Marauders reached base in the top of the fifth, prompting manager Rachel Balkovec to make a pitching change. RHP Trevor Holloway (5-2) entered the game in relief of Yulie but was unable to escape the jam unscathed. Holloway spiked a wild pitch in the dirt to move both runners into scoring position and surrendered a two-run double to Wyatt Hendrie to hand the lead back to Bradenton.
Tampa wasted no time reclaiming the lead in the following frame. Vargas led the inning off with a single off Bradenton reliever Yunior Thibo. Next, 3B Marcos Cabrera and 1B Ben Rice both drew full-count free passes to load the bases with one out. LF Christopher Familia came through in the clutch (yet again) with a ground ball single that found a hole on the right side of the infield. Vargas and Cabrera came around to score and tied the game at four.
RF Tayler Aguilar provided some additional damage with a go-ahead two-run double which soared way over the head of Campana in center. Barrera added another insurance run with SAC Fly and when the dust settled, the Tarpons led 7-4.
RHP Jack Neely slammed the door shut in the top of the seventh to pick up his fifth save of the season and solidify the victory. Tampa’s triumph in game one set quite the stage for both squads in the nightcap.
The Tarpons and Marauders have been battling for playoff position all week, coming into game two separated by only one game in the standings. If Tampa could pull off another win (their fourth straight) - they would find themselves tied with Bradenton and sitting just a half game back of Dunedin for first place in the FSL West. Unfortunately for the home fans, Juan Jerez had other plans and cranked a go-ahead homer in the top of the fourth. The Tarpons head into the next week on the road in Clearwater two games behind Bradenton.
RHP Yon Castro (2-6) toed the rubber for Tampa in game two and was serviceable through 3.2 innings. He allowed three earned runs spread over five hits - two of which were solo home runs.
On the first pitch he saw in the top of the second, Brenden Dixon deposited the solo homer into the left field seats for his eighth on the season. Juan Jerez walked, and Josiah Dixon drove him in on an RBI-single to take an early 2-0 lead. 2B Brett Barrera was able to get a glove on it but was unable to field it cleanly and make the out at first.
Tampa struck back in the bottom of the third to even things out. SS Roberto Chirinos and 3B Marcos Cabrera drew back-to-back walks to begin the rally, and C Ben Rice ripped a single into right to plate Chirinos. With two outs, Barrera smoked a line-drive double to Tres Gonzalez in center to tie the game, 2-2.
Yulie came out to start the fourth and quickly set Brenden Dixon down on strikes. Next thing you know, Jerez smoked his sixth homer of the season which proved to be the difference, a fly ball which bounced off the scoreboard.
RHP Nick Paciorek, LHP Ryan Anderson and RHP Danny Watson combined to throw 3.1 scoreless innings and collectively racked up four strikeouts in relief.
The Tampa Tarpons return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Clearwater to take on the Threshers – first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM EST.