LAKELAND -- A ninth inning, two-out rally kept things alive for the Tampa Yankees (35-30). Tyler Austin came to the plate and sent a ball over the left field wall for a grand slam to, ultimately, send the T-Yanks past Lakeland by a 5-4 final on Thursday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Jose Ramirez looked good for the T-Yanks, lasting six innings, allowing one run on five hits. However, the lack of early run support lead to a no-decision for the T-Yanks starting pitcher.
Early on, it appeared Lakeland starter Luis Angel Sanz would pick up a league leading 12th victory. Sanz pitched five scoreless innings, scattering three hits while walking two and striking out five.
The Flying Tigers (34-29) took the lead in the fourth inning. With two outs in the inning, James Robbins singled. Hernan Perez followed up with a double off of the left field wall to drive in Robbins, giving Lakeland a 1-0 lead.
After a lead off walk in the eighth by Tyler Collins, Wade Gaynor and Dean Green followed up with back-to-back singles off of T-Yanks reliever Rich Mascheri (1-0). With the bases loaded, James Robbins roped a triple down the right-field line, driving in two runs to give the Flying Tigers a 3-0 lead.
In the ninth inning, momentum was clearly with the Flying Tigers. Lakeland reliever Daniel Bennett, who pitched a perfect eighth, continued into the ninth.
Zach Wilson led off the inning with a strikeout. Kelvin De Leon singled up the middle, moving to second on a groundout by Yadil Mujica. Down to his last strike, Jose Toussen worked a walk. Ramon Flores, also on a two-strike count, walked to load the bases.
Lakeland brought in Matt Crouse (7-2) to try and escape the jam. Slade Heathcott, though, continued the game with an infield single, driving in De Leon. That set the stage for Austin.
Tom Kahnle entered the game in the bottom of the ninth to shut the door. The T-Yanks reliever would allow only one run, preserving a 5-4 win, and picking up his sixth save of the season.
Tampa and Lakeland will continue the series on Friday. David Aardsma (0-0) is scheduled make the start for the T-Yanks. Alex Rodriguez is expected to make a rehab start as the designated hitter in the Tampa lineup. First pitch is set for 7:11 p.m.