The fireworks after Saturday night's game between Class A Advanced Bradenton and Fort Myers were nothing compared to the explosive interaction between the teams' managers in the fourth inning.
Fort Myers skipper Doug Mientkiewicz and Bradenton counterpart Frank Kremblas tussled on the field after a hit batter, sparking a bench-clearing brawl in the Marauders' 3-2, 12-inning victory at Hammond Stadium.
"There's been some bad blood between both of our teams throughout the whole season. This isn't the first time that we've had anything come up between us," Miracle starting pitcher Jason Wheeler said.
A hard slide at second base earlier in the year and a collision Friday night between Bradenton's Dan Gamache and Fort Myers catcher Jairo Rodriguez -- a play that knocked Rodriguez out of the game -- stirred up emotions between the Florida State League rivals.
On Saturday, with two outs and the bases empty in the fourth inning, Wheeler grazed Gamache's backside with a fastball.
"I think that their manager thought that Doug had ordered it, that Doug had told me to throw at the guy, which is not true, and that didn't sit well with Doug. And he let his emotions get the best of him," Wheeler said.
According to an account posted on Twitter by Miracle broadcaster Brice Zimmerman, Kremblas stepped out of his dugout to say something to plate umpire Sean Ryan. Mientkiewicz ran from his dugout toward Kremblas and the managers got into a physical altercation, rolling on the ground as the benches emptied. The situation was settled when the managers made peace and patted each other on the back, Zimmerman posted.
Wheeler said he wasn't trying to send a message.
"No, we were just throwing inside on him and an inside fastball got away," he said. "It happens, it's baseball."
Before the managers stepped onto the diamond, it looked like the situation would remain calm, Wheeler added.
"[Gamache] kind of looked at me, but there was nothing said. He kind of looked at me and walked down to first. We thought everything was fine, but the next thing you know, their manager was out of the dugout and our manager was out of the dugout and then everyone came out onto the field," Wheeler said.
After the delay, the Twins prospect retired Jose Osuna on a groundout to short.
"You just go back and try to just separate everything. You have a job to do when you're out there on the mound, you have that little interruption and the next thing you know there's a hitter in the box and you've got to get him out," said Wheeler, a 2011 eighth-round Draft pick. "I didn't find it to be that much of a distraction," Wheeler said.
The Loyola Marymount product ended up allowing an unearned run on six hits with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. He fanned 10 and yielded two hits over seven shutout innings in his previous start.
"Being able to throw multiple pitches, have some fastball command and being able to throw my off-speed pitches for strikes, cross count a bit and get weak contact, that's where I've had success the last couple outings," Wheeler said.
Will there be any carryover Sunday, when the teams meet in the finale of a three-game series?
"I don't foresee anything happening tomorrow. I think we'll be able to have a good, clean game," Wheeler said. "Hopefully, we got it all out today."
Twins top prospect Byron Buxton doubled, tripled and walked twice to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Stephen Wickens went 3-for-6 and has hit safely in 12 straight contests.
Bradenton pitching coach Justin Meccage was ejected in the eighth for arguing balls and strikes.
The Marauders pushed across a run in the 12th against Adrian Salcedo, who walked the bases loaded before balking home Benji Gonzalez.