Turner's homer helps Miracle clinch title

Fort Myers edges St. Lucie for FSL South Division first-half crown

Stuart Turner has a .922 OPS in 12 games this month with Fort Myers. (Linwood Ferguson/Fort Myers Miracle)

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com | June 19, 2014 12:16 AM ET

A year ago, Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz and his squad rolled to a runaway first-half division title with what the skipper deemed a "team that was head and shoulders above everybody else in the league, talent-wise."

In that regard, the 2014 season has been a little different, although the midway result is exactly the same.

Backed by an early home run from catcher Stuart Turner, Class A Advanced Fort Myers bested Bradenton, 5-0, to lock up the first-half Florida State League South Division title.

The first-half crown is the Miracle's second in two years under Mientkiewicz. Fort Myers staved off St. Lucie to earn the title after the Mets were rained out Wednesday night.

"This year, we had to go through a lot," Mientkiewicz said. "It was kind of a challenge the whole entire way, and you know what, my guys deserve a lot of credit. We knew coming back from the All-Star Break we had three games we had to win, and they went ahead and did it."

Turner, a third-round pick in the 2013 Draft out of Mississippi, provided an offensive spark with a solo homer in the fifth. The long ball -- Turner's fourth -- gave Fort Myers a 1-0 lead and lifted a weight off Fort Myers' collective shoulders.

"Playing in a big-time conference like he had been, he's used to games like this," Mientkiewicz said. "His home run kind of let our offense breathe a sigh of relief. We were putting a lot of pressure on ourselves early. That home run was huge."

Mientkiewicz has had to jigsaw his lineup together at times, moving players to foreign positions. The best example is backstop Tyler Grimes, who played center field Wednesday and has also spent time at left field, right field, second base and third base.

With an offense bolstered by top Twins prospects such as shortstop Jorge Polanco (.280 average, five homers) and Adam Brett Walker (14 homers, 52 RBIs), among others, Fort Myers has put up runs in a tough offensive environment. Even more importantly, the team has gotten quality starting pitching, with five starters clocking first-half ERAs under 3.00.

Right-hander D.J. Baxendale started for Fort Myers on Wednesday and picked up the win with six scoreless innings. Baxendale (1-1) scattered four hits and struck out five.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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