DUNEDIN, Fla. - The Tampa Yankees (2-1) rallied for six runs in the sixth inning, including a pair of three-run home runs by Rashad Crawford and Trey Amburgey, and held on to defeat the Dunedin Blue Jays (1-2) in a nail-biter, 9-8, on Thursday night at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, winning the decisive Game Three and moving on to the Florida State League Championship Series.
Tampa used back-to-back two-out hits to jump on the board in the first. Gleyber Torres lined a single into center and promptly stole second base. Crawford followed by ripping an RBI double into right field, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
Ryan McBroom quickly tied the score for the Blue Jays by crushing a leadoff home run over the wall in left-center against LHP Nestor Cortes.
RHP Conor Fisk retired eight-straight batters until the Torres/Crawford duo put Tampa back on top in the fourth. Torres hit a leadoff single into center and came all the way home when Crawford roped a triple to the wall in right-center. Kevin Cornelius followed with an RBI groundout, giving the T-Yanks a 3-1 lead.
Dunedin used a pair of two-out hits in the fifth to cut into the lead. David Harris lined a double inside the right field line and scored on a base hit to right by Jorge Flores.
Further trouble arose for Cortes in the sixth. John La Prise and Jonathan Davis started the inning with back-to-back doubles, tying the game at 3-3.
RHP Eduardo Rivera (W, 1-0) entered and got McBroom to groundout before striking out Max Pentecost. The inning continued when Matt Dean drew a walk. Mike Reeves followed with a two-run double into the gap in right-center. After a walk by Harris, Flores singled into left. Reeves scored before Harris was thrown out stretching to third.
Cortes allowed four earned runs on seven hits in five innings (plus two batters). The southpaw struck out four and did not issue a walk, throwing 63 of 96 pitches for strikes.
Trailing, 6-3, the Yankees needed a spark. Tampa received more than that.
Devyn Bolasky and Torres started the inning with back-to-back singles. Crawford stepped in and belted an 0-1 pitch over the right field wall for a game-tying three-run homer.
Cornelius followed and fell behind Fisk, 0-2, but coaxed walk. Connor Spencer then lined a first-pitch single into center. After a meeting on the mound, Fisk remained in the game. On an 0-2 pitch, Amburgey crushed a go-ahead three-run home run off the scoreboard over the wall in left-center, giving the Yankees a 9-6 lead.
Fisk (L, 0-1) allowed nine earned runs on nine hits in five innings (plus six batters in the sixth). The right-hander walked one, struck out five and threw 69 of 94 pitches for strikes. RHP Dusty Isaacs walked two and struck out one in three scoreless relief innings.
The Blue Jays placed the go-ahead runs on base against RHP Chase Hodson in the seventh. La Prise singled and Davis walked with one out. Later, a two-out RBI single by Pentecost cut the lead to 9-7. A walk by Dean loaded the bases before Hodson struck out Reeves, avoiding further damage.
RHP Cody Hamlin navigated Tampa through a scoreless eighth, striking out one while working around an infield single by Flores.
Since RHP Dillon McNamara was unavailable after pitching in the first two games, manager Patrick Osborn gave the ball to RHP Jordan Foley to close the game.
Davis led off with a single into left, but was erased at second as McBroom reached on a fielder's choice. Pentecost lined an RBI double to the wall in left-center, cutting the lead to 9-8. Josh Almonte entered to pinch-run at second base. Foley then struck out Dean and Reeves, ending the game and beginning the celebration.
Crawford (3-for-4, HR, 3B, 2B, 5RBI, 2R) finished a single shy of the cycle and tallied 7 RBI in the series. Both he and Torres (3-for-4, 3R, SB) hit .438 (7-for-16) in the series. Amburgey (1-for-4, HR, 3RBI, R) finished with 4 RBI in the series.
The T-Yanks will now head to Bradenton to battle the Marauders for the FSL Title in a best-of-five series at McKechnie Field. Tampa finished 5-3 against Bradenton in the regular season. The Yankees will be the "road" team for Games One and Two and will act as the "home" team for Game Three and (if necessary) Games Four and Five.
Game One is set for Friday night at 6:30. RHP Domingo German (0-2, 3.04 ERA) is slated to start for the Yankees against RHP Yeudy Garcia (6-8, 2.76 ERA) for the Marauders.