DUNEDIN, FL--Dunedin's Home Opener at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium was punctuated by a post-game fireworks show, but the majority of the fireworks were provided by the Blue Jays offense. After trading leads with the Threshers for six back-and-forth innings, the Blue Jays exploded for a seven-run seventh on their way to a 12-6 victory.
The game featured a marquee starting pitching matchup between Blue Jays 2016 first-round draft pick RHP T.J. Zeuch and RHP Franklyn Kilome, the Philadelphia organization's top pitching prospect. The high-profile pitching dual was cut short when Zeuch exited the game after one scoreless inning with a lower-body injury. In relief of Zeuch, RHP Ryan Cook held the Threshers scoreless for three innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four.
"He was huge," Manager John Schneider said about Cook's performance. "Whenever you have a starter come out like that, you need a guy to step up and do exactly what he did. An outstanding effort from him."
On the offensive end, the Blue Jays jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when 3B Matt Dean hit an RBI triple to deep centerfield to score C Mike Reeves. Threshers CF Zach Coppola came close to making a highlight-reel catch on the play, but was unable to hold onto the ball when he crashed into the centerfield fence.
The Jays added to their lead in the third when CF Andrew Guillotte followed a SS J.C. Cardenas triple with a sacrifice fly. CF D.J. Davis singled, stole second, and came around to score on a 1B Max Pentecost double down the leftfield line to extend the Jays lead to 3-0.
The Threshers bats responded in the bottom of the fifth when LF Cornelius Randolph launched a three-run home run off RHP Jared Carkuff deep over the Blue Jays' bullpen in right-centerfield to tie the game. The Blue Jays took the lead back in the bottom of the inning on a RF Derrick Loveless single, but promptly gave the lead back when Threshers' SS Emmanuel Marrero hit a three-run home run in the top of the sixth.
The seesaw battle continued in the seventh when LF Connor Panas homered to right-centerfield to cut the Threshers' 6-4 lead in half. After D.J. Davis walked, Pentecost put the Jays back in the lead with a two-run shot into the trees behind the leftfield fence off Clearwater reliever Ranfi Casimero. It was a lead they wouldn't relinquish. DH Juan Kelly kept the Jays attack going with a double down the rightfield line and came around to score when Threshers 3B Drew Stankiewicz made a low throw on Mike Reeves' infield single that eluded the first baseman's mitt. Reeves was promptly singled home by Panas. In total, seven consecutive batters reached for the Jays in the seventh, and all seven came around to score to put Dunedin up 12-6.
"We had a really good approach, especially with two strikes," Schneider said about the offense. "What we've been preaching since the start of Spring Training is getting on the fastball, and that's what everyone did. Whenever you throw an inning like that up (seven-run seventh), I think it's contagious. Guys rolled right through the order and did what they were supposed to do and that's fun to watch."
The Blue Jays (2-1) are in action against tomorrow at home against the Clearwater Threshers (1-2). The first pitch is scheduled for 1 P.M. with LHP Angel Perdomo on the mound for the Jays against LHP Cole Irvin.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.