CLEARWATER (Saturday, May 11) - The Clearwater Threshers slugged their way to victory Saturday night, hammering the visiting Lakeland Flying Tigers 9-4 in front of 4,102 fans at Bright House Field.
The Threshers (19-16) knocked in four runs in the sixth inning and tacked on another in the seventh to run away from the visiting Tigers (13-21). Clearwater took two games in a row from Lakeland after the Tigers had won the first four meetings between the two clubs.
The Tigers opened the scoring in the top of the second inning against Threshers starter Nick Hernandez. Michael Hernandez blasted a leadoff triple off the right field wall, and came in on a single by Jason King. After Patrick Leyland fanned for the first out, Brandon Loy cracked a double to left that Cameron Perkins misplayed on the throw to the infield. King scored and Loy advanced to third on the error. Jordan Dean followed up with a double of his own to right field, scoring Loy and making it 3-0 Lakeland.
Clearwater chipped away at the lead in the bottom of the frame. Perkins led off with a double up the left field line, and moved to third on a bunt single by first baseman Brock Stassi. Shortstop Jose Mojica grounded out to Loy at shortstop, with Stassi moving to second on the play and Perkins scoring to make it 3-1.
The Threshers drew a little closer in the bottom of the third inning. Third baseman Maikel Franco smacked a one-out double to left, and moved to third on a single by designated hitter Chris Serritella. With two outs, a wild pitch by Lakeland starter Jeff Ferrell allowed Franco to slide in safely, cutting the lead to 3-2.
Lakeland added to their lead in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with no outs against Hernandez. Dean lofted a sacrifice fly to right, allowing King to race home and score a run to make it 4-2 in favor of the Tigers.
Clearwater evened the score in the bottom of the fourth. Mojica led off with a single, and moved to second on a one-out single to left by center fielder Kyrell Hudson. With two outs, right fielder Kelly Dugan hit a hard grounder to first that skipped over Aaron Westlake's head. The ball rolled to the wall for a two-out, two-run triple that knotted the game up at 4-4.
The Threshers bounded ahead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Catcher Logan Moore drew a leadoff walk from Lakeland reliever Jade Todd (0-2), and moved to second on a single to left by Hudson. Second baseman Carlos Alonso bopped a double to right to plate both runners and give Clearwater a two-run lead. After a fly out to center by Dugan, Franco was walked intentionally to put runners on first and second with one out. Serritella flew out to left, and Michael Torrealba came on to replace Todd with two outs. Perkins then slashed a double up the left field line, scoring Alonso and making it 8-4 in favor of Clearwater.
The Threshers tacked on one more in the bottom of the seventh, as Moore drew a one-out walk and Alonso earned a free pass with two outs to put runners on first and second for Dugan. The right fielder lashed a single to right, scoring Moore and making it 9-4 for Clearwater.
Hernandez took a no-decision with four runs allowed on seven hits and three walks in four innings; he struck out four. Mario Hollands (1-0) pitched three scoreless innings for the win, with three hits tempered by two strikeouts. Ryan O'Sullivan tossed a perfect eighth inning with a strikeout. Colton Murray threw a scoreless frame in the top of the ninth, fanning two and giving up one hit.
Ferrell did not factor in the decision, with four runs surrendered on eight hits and a walk in four innings while whiffing five. Todd took the loss, having given up four runs on three hits and two walks in his 1.2 frames. Torrealba coughed up a run on two hits and two walks in 1.1 innings. Melvin Mercedes pitched a perfect inning of relief for Lakeland.
The Threshers return to action Monday against the Bradenton Marauders, with southpaw Hoby Milner starting for Clearwater against Bradenton righty Adrian Sampson. It's a Feeding Frenzy at Bright House Field, presented by Brooklyn Knish! A $12 ticket entitles fans to an All-You-Can-Eat menu for three hours. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m., and gates open at 6 p.m. The pregame show with Ben Gellman and Kirsten Karbach begins at 6:45 p.m. on ThreshersBaseball.com.