Brae Wright's first win for the Brevard County Manatees could not have come at a better time.
Wright hurled 7 2/3 solid innings as the Manatees pounded visiting St. Lucie, 13-2, on Thursday to advance to the Florida State League Finals for the first time since 2001.
After going 0-2 in seven regular-season games for the Manatees, Wright (1-0) pitched seven scoreless frames before giving up two runs in the eighth. He allowed eight hits and one walk while striking out three.
"I came out feeling great," said the 23-year-old left-hander, who kept hitters off-balance with curveballs, sliders, changeups and fastballs that topped out in the high 80s.
"I was getting ahead early, moving the ball in and out, not letting guys get too comfortable with one side of the plate," he added. "I did what I could for [my teammates], and they stepped up as well. The defense was phenomenal."
Brevard County committed three errors in an 8-0 loss in Game 1 and made one in a 7-6 win in Game 2 before playing errorless ball in the clincher.
The Manatees used a balanced attack Thursday as every player in the lineup contributed at least one hit, starting with a solo homer by Cole Gillespie in the first.
"It felt pretty good to get a lead like that in the first inning," Gillespie said.
Brevard County padded its lead with a five-run third. Mat Gamel and Mike Bell delivered RBI singles before Chris Errecart stroked a two-run triple and scored on an error by third baseman Dan Murphy.
The Manatees added two runs in the seventh and five in the eighth to put the game out of reach. Yohannis Perez went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs and Gamel was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Gillespie and Bell each scored three runs, while leadoff batter Lorenzo Cain reached base five times, going 2-for-2 with three walks.
"That was the most amazing thing I've done in a while, and that really put us over the top," Cain said. "We were down after the first game, but we got our minds right. Tonight, we put together a big win."
"Everybody stepped up and delivered," said Gamel, who won Game 2 with a ninth-inning single. "It was a team win, a good victory for all of us."
The Manatees will face the winner of Friday's Game 3 of the West Division Finals between Clearwater and Sarasota.
"Everyone's rolling right now," added Bell. "We got the momentum."
"It's been a great ride," Manatees mnager John Tamargo added. "I'm so proud of these guys who never gave up."
After Wright exited, Patrick Ryan retired all four batters he faced.
Mets starter Eric Brown (0-1) was tagged for six runs -- four earned -- on five hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings.
Nick Evans hit an RBI double and scored on Murphy's single for St. Lucie. Emmanuel Garcia, the only player on the defending FSL champions with more than one hit, went 3-for-4.