DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Clearwater jumped out to an early 4-0 lead on Thursday night, but the Daytona Tortugas surged for six runs over the first two innings and held off the Threshers, 6-5 to force a decisive game three in the Florida State League North division series.
The winner of Thursday night's contest will face off against the Fort Myers Miracle in the FSL Championship series beginning on Friday. The Miracle won the South by defeating the Palm Beach Cardinals, two games to none.
The Threshers led early on Wednesday, grabbing a four-run lead in the top of the first. Daniel Brito got it going with a leadoff single, and a fielding error on third baseman Brantley Bell allowed Arquimedes Gamboa to reach and Brito to sprint into third.
With one out, Henri Lartigue came through, getting Clearwater on the board with an RBI single to left-center. Luke Williams and Edgar Cabral each added run-scoring singles of their own, and Grenny Cumana sent a sacrifice fly to right to score Williams and make it 4-0.
Daytona cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs, a single, an error, and a wild pitch put two men in scoring position, and Courtney Hawkins grounded a base hit up the middle to bring Daytona to within two.
The Tortugas overtook Clearwater for their first lead of the series in the second. Three straight hits and an error opened the inning against Alejandro Requena, and one out later, Taylor Trammell's two-run single gave Daytona a 6-4 lead.
Clearwater inched closer in the fourth. With two outs, Brito was hit by a pitch, and Gamboa lined a single to center. Mickey Moniak followed by striking a line drive to centerfield to score Brito and bring Clearwater to within one, trailing 6-5.
Alberto Tirado worked around a bases-loaded, no out situation in the bottom half, striking out a pair before getting Hawkins to fly out to left-center to end the threat.
After Tirado turned in 2.2 scoreless, Jonathan Hennigan spun two perfect innings in relief, picking up a pair of strikeouts in the sixth.
JD Hammer issued a leadoff walk in the seventh, before Kevin Markham made a diving catch on a Tyler Stephenson fly in foul territory and managed to double off Trammell at first after he failed to tag up. Jakob Hernandez worked a scoreless eighth.
Joel Kuhnel and Ryan Hendrix combined to keep Clearwater off the board in the final three innings, sending the series to a decisive game three on Thursday.
The finale of the FSL North Division Series will take place at 7:05 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Ballpark on Thursday night, with the winner set to face Fort Myers in the FSL Championship series. The game will be broadcast live on threshersbaseball.com beginning at 6:50 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.