TAMPA, Fla. – 1B Ben Rice provided some late inning heroics for the Tampa Tarpons (32-22), who pushed past the Dunedin Blue Jays (34-21) in extra innings, 4-3. The Tarpons came into Wednesday’s tilt in a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive and relied on an entirely new
TAMPA, Fla. – 1B Ben Rice provided some late inning heroics for the Tampa Tarpons (32-22), who pushed past the Dunedin Blue Jays (34-21) in extra innings, 4-3. The Tarpons came into Wednesday’s tilt in a must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive and relied on an entirely new bullpen transferred from the FCL to get it the job done. Tampa’s bullpen allowed only two hits and one earned run combined through five innings pitched.
LHP Joel Valdez began the game on the rubber and provided the Tarpons with five solid innings of work. Valdez allowed only two hits and two unearned runs while striking out four Blue Jays.
The contest was a pitchers’ duel up until the fifth inning when Tampa shot themselves in the foot with some costly miscues. Marcos De La Rosa collected his first Single-A hit with a lead-off single off Valdez. He stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. With two outs, Cade Doughty chopped the pitch right back to Valdez. The lefty fielded the ball on the hop but threw widely to first which allowed a run to score. During the next at-bat, Doughty attempted to steal second base and watched C Antonio Gomez’ throw ricochet off SS Alexander Vargas into the outfield. The Tarpons were slow to get the ball back into the pitcher, and Doughty scurried across the plate while the defense was lacking.
Tampa struck back in the bottom of the sixth with three straight hits to begin the frame. CF Spencer Jones led off with a line drive single into left field. Vargas plated Jones with an RBI-double down the third base line to bring the Tarpons within one. Gomez kept the ball rolling by leaving the yard for the second straight game, putting the home team ahead, 3-2.
Newcomer RHP Eric Reyzelman made his Tarpons’ debut in the top of the seventh and struggled with command. The right-hander hit Josh Kasevich with a pitch and then loaded the bases with a pair of walks. Devonte Brown took advantage of the opportunity by lining a SAC Fly to LF Christopher Familia to knot the game at three apiece.
Manager Rachel Balkovec replaced Reyzelman with another brand-new reliever, RHP Kris Bow, who struck out Ryan McCarty to end the inning.
Tampa made things interesting in the bottom of the eighth by loading the bases with one out but 2B Brett Barrera rolled into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
The Tampa faithful was treated to some free baseball and ultimately left George M. Steinbrenner Field happy. With two outs, Rice laced a walk-off RBI-single down the first base to plate Vargas and secure the victory. The Tarpons now sit 1.5 games behind Dunedin for first place in the FSL West Division.
The Tarpons square off against the Blue Jays tomorrow night at 6:30 PM EST for game three of their six-game set. RHP Tyrone Yulie (3-5, 4.90 ERA) is expected to make the start for Tampa.