FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 18, 2017) - The Florida Fire Frogs' bullpen came up with big pitches when it needed it most in the latter portion of Tuesday night, as the visitors came away with a 5-4 victory over the Fort Myers Miracle at Hammond Stadium.
With a two-run lead in the eighth, Sean McLaughlin gave up back-to-back singles to Zander Wiel and Trey Vavra to open up the frame. With Rafael Valera batting, both runners broke and advanced 90 ft. with stolen bases, but Alex Jackson's throw to third was just past the outstretched glove of Austin Riley (who slipped on the bag) and sailed into left, allowing Wiel to score to cut the lead to one. McLaughlin then allowed a bunt single to Valera to put runners on the corners with nobody out.
The right-hander picked Valera off at first for the first out of the inning, with Vavra staying at third on the play.
McLaughlin issued a free pass to Daniel Kihle, putting runners back on the corners for Brian Navarreto, who placed down an infield single with a bunt down the third-base line to load the bases.
The 22-year-old reliever induced a grounder back to the mound off the bat of Nelson Molina, with the pitcher's only play coming on a force at the plate to nab Vavra. McLaughlin then retired Alex Perez on a lineout to center to escape the jam with limited damage.
Riley walked to start the ninth for Florida (6-7) and advanced to second on a groundout by Jackson. After a walk to Braxton Davidson (0x2, R, 2 BB), Carlos Castro (2x5, 2B, 2 RBI) roped a sinking liner to left that was misplayed by Kihle, scoring Riley from second and moving Davidson to third on the RBI double.
Devan Watts (SV, 2) came on to close the game in the ninth, but not without drama.
The right-hander gave up a double to Max Murphy to start the final frame, then gave up a run-scoring single to right off the bat of Chris Paul.
The closer settled down after that, striking out Wiel, Vavra and Valera to end the game and lock down the one-run victory.
For the eighth time in nine games, the Fire Frogs plated the first run of the game. Riley (1x4, 2 R, 2B, RBI, BB) reached on an error by Perez on second for the first baserunner of the night. A wild pitch moved the runner up to second, leading to Jackson's (2x5, R, RBI) RBI knock on a line drive to center. The single extended the 21-year-old's on-base streak to 11 games.
Florida tallied solo runs in the second and third with a sacrifice fly by Ray-Patrick Didder (1x4, 2B, RBI) and a single by Castro.
Fort Myers (4-9) plated two unearned runs against Drew Harrington (2-1) in the third to pull within a run.
The lefty struck out Molina on a ball in the dirt to begin the bottom half of the inning, but an errant throw to first by Jackson allowed Molina to motor all the way into third. Perez followed with a double to the gap in left-center to pull the home team within two.
Consecutive ground outs by Murphy and Paul brought Harrington within a run of limiting the damage, but Wiel cracked a triple to the gap and scored Perez.
Those two marks would be the only allowed for the 2016, third-round draft pick, as the product of Louisville allowed two unearned runs on six hits, a walk and five strikeouts.
Florida will look to pull ahead in game three of the four-game set on Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium. LHP Ricardo Sanchez (0-1, 4.70) will take the mound for the Fire Frogs against the Miracles's RHP Cody Stashak (0-2, 3.00). First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m., with coverage starting at 6:20 p.m. on the TuneIn Radio app.
The Fire Frogs return home to Osceola County Stadium for a six-game homestand beginning Tuesday, April 25. The first night is Fire Rum Tuesday at Florida's home stadium. As part of the Most Improved Student Program, the Florida Fire Frogs will reward students for their hard work and achievement with a pre-game, on-field ceremony. Fans can enjoy $3 Fire Rum mixed drinks and $2 tostones. April 25 will also be Service Industry Night, where members of the service industry can purchase tickets at a discounted rate.
About the Florida Fire Frogs
The Florida Fire Frogs are the Advanced-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves and compete in the Florida State League. The Fire Frogs play their home games at Osceola County Stadium, located at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida. Tickets for the first homestand are available now. For more information, please visit www.FloridaFireFrogs.com, and follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.