VIERA, Fla. - After not recording a walk-off win all season, the Brevard County Manatees tallied their second victory game-ending victory in a week, as they defeated the St. Lucie Mets, 4-3 at Space Coast Stadium on Friday night.
With no one on and one out, Jose Sermo stepped up to the plate against the Mets side-arming, left-handed reliever T.J. Chism. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Sermo uncorked a towering blast that cleared the left-center field wall and landed on the berm.
Sermo's home run was his second of the year and the Manatees' (15-8 second half, 51-38 overall) first walk-off home run since T.J. Mittelstaedt's game-winner against Tampa on August 7 of last year. It is also the 'Tees second walk-off victory in a week, as Alfredo Rodriguez drove in the winning run on Saturday night with a fielder's choice against the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
However, Sermo's heroics would not have been needed if it were not for a shaky top of the eighth inning.
With St. Lucie (16-9, 56-38) trailing 3-0, Manatees reliever Scott Lieser started the frame off strong by retiring the first two batters on a strikeout and a ground out to short. Then Major League rehabber Taylor Teagarden sparked the comeback with a single to right. Jared King and Cam Maron followed suit with a pair singles themselves, as Teagarden scored to trim the lead to 3-1.
Joe Ayrault then decided to call on his closer, Mark Williams, to try quell the rally. The right-hander, who was making his first appearance in exactly a week, could not locate his pitches, as he walked Phillip Evans on four pitches to load the bases.
It did not get better from there. On a 3-1 pitch, Williams then hit Aderlin Rodriguez on the left elbow to force home a run and cut the Manatees lead down to one. The next batter, Jeff McNeil, proceeded to walk on five pitches. Maron would score to tie the game at three.
Williams would battle back and retire the final four batters he faced, two via the strike out, to record his first win of the year.
Brevard grabbed the initial lead with a run in the fourth inning. With one out, Cameron Garfield cranked a double to right-center field. After Victor Roache flew out to left, Rodriguez came through with the Manatees first big hit of the game.
On a 3-1 pitch, Rodriguez sliced a single through the hole between third and short. Garfield was able to motor home from second to give the Manatees the lead, 1-0.
In the seventh, the 'Tees added some cushion courtesy of Michael Reed. Mets starter Kevin McGowan (2-1, 2.78 ERA) began to tire, as he walked both Rodriguez and Brandon Macias to start the inning.
St. Lucie manager Ryan Ellis then called upon righty reliever Julian Hilario to stop the bleeding. After a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners and a pop out to second, Reed stepped in. The right fielder grounded a single up the middle to score both Rodriguez and Macias and extend the lead to three.
Despite not recording a decision, Hobbs Johnson (9-6, 2.80) pieced together another phenomenal outing. The left-hander surrendered just four hits over six shutout frames. Johnson walked just one and struck out six. With tonight's performance, Johnson has now gone 12.1 innings without allowing a run.
The Manatees will look to keep their perch atop the Florida State League North Division when they wrap up their series against the Mets tomorrow night with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. at Space Coast Stadium. It will be a battle of FSL All-Stars, as Damien Magnifico (6-5, 3.70) will get the start for Brevard against St. Lucie's Matthew Koch (7-3, 4.10).