It may not have been the most memorable of seasons for James Robbins, but on Tuesday, he came up with his team's biggest hit of the year.
The Tigers prospect delivered a go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning Tuesday as Lakeland pulled out a 5-3 victory over Jupiter to force a decisive fifth game in the Florida State League Championship Series.
Robbins, a left-handed-hitting first baseman, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. After Curt Casali tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the eighth, the 21-year-old doubled to left off reliever Michael Bradley to score Wade Gaynor and Austin Schotts.
"They had been pitching me in and out the whole game and I guessed they'd start me outside in that at-bat and was able to drive the ball down the line," Robbins told The (Lakeland) Ledger.
"I wasn't surprised that he came through for us in both of those situations because he's had some great at-bats late in games for us," Lakeland manager Dave Huppert added.
The game was tied, 2-2, heading to the seventh before Jupiter pulled ahead on Dallas Poulk's sacrifice fly. It left the Hammherheads just six outs away from claiming the league crown. Instead, the teams will be back at Joker Marchant Stadium on Wednesday in a winner-take-all showdown.
"Our faith in each other just kept building as the season progressed and we have come together as a team like no other group I've played with," Flying Tigers left fielder Tyler Collins told the newspaper.
Matt Crouse (1-0) was thrown into a jam in the top of the seventh but retired Marlins' top prospect Christian Yelich to strand runners at first and second. He worked a 1-2-3 eighth and pitched around shortstop Dixon Machado's error in the ninth, retiring Taylor Krick on a popup to Robbins to end the game.
Robbins, who batted .237 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs in 124 regular-season games, breathed life back into Lakeland's season. The Washington native hit .262 with runners in scoring position during the year and was 4-for-20 in his first five playoff games.
Lakeland's rally in the eighth came against Raudel Lazo (0-1), who replaced Rett Varner and immediately got in trouble. Tyler Collins singled, Gaynor walked and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Jupiter manager Andy Haines opted to intentionally walk Dean Green to load the bases for Casali, whose fly ball to center produced the tying run.
Robbins followed with his second double of the playoffs.
Jupiter took a 2-0 lead in the third on an RBI double by Marcell Ozuna and Ryan Fisher's run-scoring single, although Ozuna was thrown out at the plate.
Lakeland tied it two innings later when when Robbins doubled home Green and Michael Rockett drew a bases-loaded walk off Jupiter starter Adam Conley.
Drew VerHagen started for Lakeland and allowed two runs on five hits over six frames. The 2012 fourth-round pick struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Conley, a 2011 second-round pick, fanned seven and gave up two runs on three hits and a pair of walks over four-plus innings. The Marlins' No. 2 left-handed prospect faced 18 batters, including five in the fifth without recording an out.