VIERA, Fla. - Courtesy of a pair of home runs the Palm Beach Cardinals took their second straight from the Brevard County Manatees, 5-4 in game one of Sunday's doubleheader at Space Coast Stadium.
With Palm Beach (24-11 second half, 60-44 overall) and Brevard (16-15, 52-45) deadlocked at four in the top of the fifth, Nick Martini stepped up the plate to lead off the frame against Manatees starter Austin Ross (7-4, 3.66 ERA). On a 2-2 pitch, Martini lofted a high fly ball to left field. Initially looking like a casual fly out, the ball began to carry towards the wall.
Victor Roache chased it to the wall and made a leap to try and make the catch. However, the ball traveled over the wall and into the Cardinals' bullpen for a solo home run. The go-ahead jack was Martini's third of the year and it put Palm Beach in front for good, 5-4.
This came immediately after Brevard County stormed back to even the game at four. Trailing 4-1 against Cardinals starter Nick Petree (5-3, 2.22), Roache began the frame with a four-pitch walk. Mike Garza followed with a double into left-center, which brought the tying run to the plate.
Garrett Cooper, who had not recorded an RBI with Brevard since May 19, came through with a crushing blow. The first baseman hammered a shot over the head of Martini in center. The ball took one hop and went over the wall for a ground-rule double. Both Roache and Garza score to trim the lead to 4-3.
That put an end to Petree's night. The Cardinals ninth round pick from last year went a season-low 3.2 innings. He surrendered four runs - three earned - on a season-high-tying seven hits.
After a pair of outs prevented Cooper from advancing, Orlando Arcia delivered the game-tying knock. With two strikes against him, Arcia slapped a line drive single into left. Anthony Garcia's throw in was up the third base line and Cooper slid in safely to knot the score at four.
The Manatees grabbed the initial lead in the first on a run-scoring single by Michael Reed, but the Cardinals came back in the next half inning.
David Popkins, Garcia and Mason Katz ignited the rally with three straight singles to begin the frame. Ross then forced Jimmy Bosco to pop one up to short. The infield fly rule was called for out number one.
The next hitter, Gerwuins Velzaco, stepped in and quickly fell behind, 0-2. However, Velzaco stood strong and cranked the next pitch to deep left-center field. Roache and Tyrone Taylor followed it back, but all they could do was watch, as it sailed over the wall for a grand slam. The blast was Velzaco's first of the year and it gave Palm Beach its first lead, 4-1.
Ross battled through six innings, but took his third straight loss and fourth of the season. The former LSU Tiger allowed a season-high five runs and nine hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out six in defeat.
Brevard received strong offensive performances from the top of their lineup. Arcia, Taylor and Reed combined to record seven of the team's 10 hits and two of the four runs batted in.
With the loss, the Manatees have dropped a season-worst seven of their last eight entering the second game of Sunday's doubleheader.