Flying Tigers head home with split

Perez delivers 15th-inning triple in Game 2 of FSL Finals

By Erin Brown / Special to | September 8, 2012 9:42 PM

JUPITER, Fla. -- Hernan Perez busted a slump and a deadlock with one swing.

The Tigers prospect tripled home the go-ahead run in the 15th inning Saturday as Lakeland outlasted Jupiter, 8-7, in Game 2 of the Florida State League Championship Series at Roger Dean Stadium.

"I was [0-for-6] all game, so I was ready get one in that round," said Perez, who helped the Flying Tigers get even in the best-of-5 series. "We needed it a lot. We were really fighting."

Pinch-hitter Luis Castillo led off the 15th with a single to left field. Two outs later, the non-drafted free agent delivered his only hit on a very long night.

"I thought I hit the ball good because I was relaxed," Perez said.

Lakeland hosts the final three games, if necessary, with Game 3 slated for Sunday.

"We're a great home team," Flying Tigers outfielder Tyler Collins said. "We're playing together really well. We've got our ace coming, as do they."

Lakeland was one out away from getting a jump on the trip home, but J.T. Realmuto singled home Christian Yelich with two outs in the ninth to force extra innings.

Yelich, the Marlins' top prospect, drew a leadoff walk against Matt Crouse and moved up on a base hit by Ryan Fisher.

One batter later, Realmuto beat out an infield hit, with Yelich scoring from second as catcher Curt Casali was too far up the first-base line to turn and apply a tag.

"You can see how the play is going to develop, but he's such a good runner, you just send him all the way," Jupiter manager Andy Haines said. "A lot of credit goes to Realmuto to beat that out, and Yelich never hesitated. It was real a heads-up hustle play."

Collins went 4-for-7 with two doubles, a triple, two RBIs and a run scored, falling a homer shy of the cycle for the winners.

"The main approach I had today was take each bat separate from the last one," the Tigers' No. 16 prospect said. "I feel like that kept me really focused and disciplined at the plate, especially early in the game."

Collins had three shots at completing the cycle.

"I was just thinking, get on base, and if guys are on base, drive them in," he said. Two of those chances came in extra innings, when he faced former high school teammate Rett Varner. Collins flied out in each at-bat.

"Bragging rights would have been nice, but he's a great pitcher," he said. "It's kind of good we put him on the shelf for tomorrow. It's kind of reassuring for us because he is that good."

With Lakeland leading, 7-3, Victor Larez loaded the bases in the fifth on a hit and walks to Yelich and Marlins' No. 6 prospect Marcell Ozuna. Jade Todd relieved, but the Hammerheads chipped away as Mark Canha, Realmuto and Taylor Krick drove in runs.

With the exception of Yelich, who singled in the sixth, the Hammerheads fell silent until the ninth.

Jupiter starter Ramon Del Orbe, who was added to the playoff roster on Friday, lasted three innings and was charged with four runs on six hits and a walk.

Alex Burgos, Detroit's No. 10 prospect, also pitched three innings and gave up three runs on four hits while striking out three.

"I don't think either side pitched the way they wanted to start the game," Haines said. "Then it just turns into a great baseball game, and they get the big hit when they needed it."

Lakeland opened the scoring in the first on back-to-back doubles by Marcus Lemon and Collins. Realmuto tied it in the second with an RBI double and the teams traded runs in the third.

The Flying Tigers tacked on a run in the fourth, then added three in the fifth as Collins delivered an RBI triple and trotted home on Wade Gaynor's second postseason homer.

While Lakeland grabbed home-field advantage, it also taxed its bullpen by using eight pitchers.

"At this time of year, everybody is short on pitching," Flying Tigers manager Dave Huppert said. "Some of those guys we used early in the ballgame, we can use them tomorrow. They're going to have to suck it up. We've got three games left in the year. Then they can go home and rest for six months."

Erin Brown is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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