Jeff Niemann tossed four strong innings in Friday's rehab start. (Nick Martinez)
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - The Charlotte Stone Crabs offense picked up right where it left off a night prior, cruising to a 10-2 win over the Daytona Cubs on Friday at Charlotte Sports Park.
With the victory, Charlotte took 3 of 4 from the top team in the Florida State League, and Daytona dropped just its second series of the season.
The Stone Crabs bats did not take long to heat up on a humid night. Four out of the first five Charlotte hitters reached base against Daytona starter Brent Ebinger (5-2) on the way to a four run frame. The big inning was capped by Mark Thomas' two-run double to left center, but that was just a precursor to the home team's offensive explosion.
Two more Charlotte runs came across in the second inning. With one out, the Stone Crabs pounded out four consecutive hits to swell their lead to 6-0.
Rehabbing Rays starter Jeff Niemann took care of the Cubs in the early innings. As scheduled, the righty threw four innings of shutout baseball while striking out two. Niemann allowed just one hit and did not issue a walk, throwing 41 of his 54 pitches for strikes.
Merrill Kelly (3-2) entered in the fifth inning and followed Niemann's lead. The righty finished out the game, throwing five strong innings and allowing just two runs on four hits. Like Niemmann, Kelly did not issue a walk while striking out three men.
For good measure, the Stone Crabs bats went back to work in the fifth to push the lead to 8-0. After Anthony Scelfo opened the inning with a single, Thomas continued his strong night with a double down the left field line. Dustin Biell's ground out to third scored Scelfo, before Matt Hall stroked an Eduardo Figueroa offering through the right side to plate Thomas.
Mark Thomas highlighted his 3 for 5 performance with his fourth home run of the season in the bottom of the seventh. That blast, coupled with a hit batsman with bases loaded, gave Charlotte a 10-run advantage.
After the Cubs scored a pair of runs in the top of the eighth, Kelly worked a perfect ninth inning to close out an impressive Charlotte effort.
Tyler Bortnick collected four hits in the win. Meanwhile, All-Star Brett Nommensen extended his hitting streak to nine-games, which ties his season high.
The Stone Crabs open a three-game series with the Bradenton Marauders Saturday night at McKechnie Field. Lefty Kyle Lobstein (3-2) gets the nod for Charlotte opposite righty Brett Lorin (2-2). First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.