With runs at a premium in the first two games of the series, the Jupiter Hammerheads and St. Lucie Mets found themselves in a slugfest in Digital Domain Park in Game 3.
The Mets battled back from a five-run deficit to tie the game in the fifth inning, but it was the resilient Hammerheads that halted the rally and prevailed with an 11-7 victory in the decisive game on Thursday night. With a 2-1 series win, Jupiter advances to the FSL Championship Series for the first time in team history.
The Hammerheads got out of the gates to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first off Mets' starter Chase Huchingson. Marcell Ozuna drew a one-out walk and Ryan Fisher followed with a single. Mark Canha then broke out of his series slump with a two-run triple to the right-center field gap. Canha came in to score two batters later on an RBI-single by Alfredo Lopez.
St. Lucie was able to scratch the plate in the third inning when Alonzo Harris slugged a solo home run off Jupiter starter Robert Morey.
In the top of the fourth, the Hammerheads extended their lead to a comfortable 6-1 margin. An RBI-single by Taylor Krick and a two-run double by Terrence Dayleg highlighted the offense in the frame.
With Morey and the Hammerheads seemingly on cruise control, the Mets batted around in the fifth inning to tie the score. Three straight line drive singles up the middle cut the Jupiter lead to 6-2 and chased Morey from the game. Mike Ojala then gave up a two-run triple to Daniel Muno which brought St. Lucie to within two runs of the lead. Following another pitching change two batters later, Richard Lucas connected on a deep shot which popped in-and-out of Lopez's glove in left field. The result was a game-tying two-run double. Rett Varner stranded Lucas at second by retiring the next two batters and escaping the inning with a six-all tie.
Jupiter did not allow St. Lucie to keep their momentum however, and quickly responded with their third three-run frame of the ballgame. Noah Perio singled with one out, and moved to third on a double by Krick. After Dayleg was called out on strikes, the Mets elected to intentionally walk Christian Yelich to load the bases. The next batter, Ozuna, was rewarded for his patience as he too drew a four-pitch walk to force in the go-ahead run. A two-run double by Ryan Fisher capped the scoring in the inning as the Hammerheads regained a 9-6 lead.
It was a lead which they would not relinquish again. Jupiter tacked on two more runs in the top of the eighth, and the Mets added another solo homer by Cesar Puello in the ninth but the Hammerheads' bullpen stood their ground.
In the end, Michael Brady recorded the final out of the night, on a fly ball off the bat of St. Lucie slugger Cory Vaughn which settled into the glove of Yelich in center field, and Jupiter celebrated their first ever South Division Championship.
The Hammerheads will now take on the North Champion, Lakeland Flying Tigers in the FSL Championship beginning on Friday at Roger Dean Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.