When a ballpark celebrates its third seventh-inning stretch of the evening, something extraordinary is taking place.
That was the case on Monday night -- and Tuesday morning -- as Class A Advanced Jupiter edged visiting Clearwater, 2-1, in 23 innings.
In a game that featured 173 plate appearances, the most important one came at roughly 12:10 a.m. ET -- 5:37 after the first one. Jose Duarte, who entered the game in the 14th, lifted a one-out single to right field that scored Jaime Ortiz from second on a close play at the plate.
"It was a lot of fun to be a part of," said Hammerheads hitting coach Frank Moore, who had never seen anything like it in his 11 seasons in the Minors. "But it's easier to say that having won."
The longest Florida State League game on record is a 29-inning affair between Miami and St. Petersburg on June 14, 1966.
The Threshers had used position players Joe Savery (who was originally drafted as a pitcher) and Darin Ruf to pitch the previous four frames, but turned to closer Justin Friend for the 23rd. Friend, who had pitched an inning Sunday, leads the Minor Leagues with 16 saves and entered the game with a 0.86 ERA.
In just his second non-save situation of the season, Friend yielded a leadoff single to Hammerheads first baseman Ortiz, who had been 0-for-7 with a walk. Ortiz moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Miguel Fermin before Duarte drilled the first offering into right.
The relatively fresh Duarte was 1-for-4 on the night, having taken over third base when starter Chase Austin was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after fanning to end the 13th inning. Jupiter manager Ron Hassey was also tossed by home plate umpire Blake Felter, leaving Moore in charge.
"I was just trying to not out-think the game as we went along," Moore said. "I sure wasn't expecting it to go on another 10 innings."
Clearwater had the better of the chances throughout the game and outhit Jupiter, 17-14, but went just 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position and left 22 men on base. The Hammerheads were 2-for-10 in those situations and left 12 stranded.
Threshers leadoff man Jiwan James tripled, doubled, walked and singled in his first four plate appearances, but was unable to complete the cycle with a homer in his remaining six times at bat. He finished the game 3-for-8 with a pair of walks.
The roughest night at the plate belonged to Hammerheads shortstop Jeff Dominguez, who went 0-for-9 with a strikeout and saw his batting average drop 15 points in one game.
Fermin led the Jupiter offense, going 3-for-8 with three doubles. Even more impressively, both he and his Clearwater counterpart, Sebastian Valle, caught all 23 innings.
"I'm sure they'll be a little sore tomorrow," Martin said.
Both teams' starting pitchers were solid. Brody Colvin gave up one run on four hits while fanning three over six frames for Clearwater, while Jupiter's Matthew Montgomery allowed a run on six hits in seven innings.
It was the bullpens, however, that dominated the game. Neither team scored for 16 straight innings between the end of the sixth and the start of the 23rd. The two clubs used eight pitchers apiece and combined to issue just 10 walks to the game's 173 batters.
For the Threshers, Joseph Esposito tossed four no-hit frames from the 15th through the 18th, striking out five. He has not allowed a run in his last 17 2/3 innings covering seven appearances.
He was followed by Savery, a former first-round pick as a pitcher who turned to hitting after going 1-12 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. Savery gave up two hits and struck out one over two scoreless innings on the mound and went 1-for-10 at the plate, dropping his average to .320.
The only true non-pitcher in the game was even better. In his professional pitching debut, Threshers first baseman Darin Ruf gave up one hit and one walk while striking out one in two shutout innings. He was 2-for-9 with a double as a hitter.
Jupiter's bullpen effort was highlighted by three perfect frames from right-hander Kris Harvey, who set down all nine Threshers he faced in innings 15 through 17.
The Hammerheads had not sent a position player to the mound, but Martin said that second baseman Dallas Poulk was in the bullpen and would have pitched the 24th, which due to a curfew would have been the last inning for the night.
Friend (0-1) took the loss for Clearwater, allowing one run on two hits in one-third of an inning. Jupiter reliever Alejandro Ramos improved to 1-1 after giving up one hit and one walk while fanning two in the top of the 23rd.
The two teams will be back at it again Tuesday, with the third game of their four-game set scheduled to start at 6:35 p.m.