TAMPA, Fla. – With their backs against the wall, the Tampa Tarpons (25-18) flipped the script and walked-off the Bradenton Marauders (29-16) in extra innings at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 6-5. 2B Luis Santos played hero for the home crowd, completing the epic comeback with an RBI-single to centerfield. Santos’
TAMPA, Fla. – With their backs against the wall, the Tampa Tarpons (25-18) flipped the script and walked-off the Bradenton Marauders (29-16) in extra innings at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 6-5. 2B Luis Santos played hero for the home crowd, completing the epic comeback with an RBI-single to centerfield. Santos’ big moment was set up by LF Christopher Familia, who turned the tide in the eighth inning with a clutch game-tying grand slam. It was a crucial win for Tampa as they attempt to gain ground on the 1st place Marauders for the West Division’s final playoff spot.
The Tarpons deployed RHP Zach Messinger on the hill in a must-win situation. The right-hander came out firing and carved through the Marauders’ first three hitters to strike out the side in the top of the first.
Messinger cruised through the second inning but ran into some trouble in the top of the third. Deivis Nadal led off with a line drive single to CF Madison Santos. Nick Cimillo was hit by a pitch and Tsung-Che Cheng worked a full-count walk to load the bases. With two outs, Tanner Tredaway cleared the bases with an RBI-single to right field. Jack Brannigan capped the big inning with an RBI-single to center and the Marauders found themselves ahead 4-0.
Manager Rachel Balkovec made a call to the bullpen in the top of the fifth, replacing Messinger with RHP Leam Mendez.
Mendez was assigned to the Tarpons a little over a week ago and was solid through 2.1 innings of relief. He struck out the side in the fifth and finished the night with five total strikeouts.
Bradenton put the pressure on Tampa again in the top of the seventh. Cimillo walked to begin the frame and advanced to third on a sharp line-drive double off the bat of Cheng. Balkovec had seen enough and tasked RHP Enrique Santana with escaping the one-out jam. The Marauders were able to scrape across another run on a wild pitch that sailed over C Ben Rice. Tampa escaped further damage after Santana cut down Tseng at the plate trying to steal home while no one was looking.
Santos scored Tampa’s first run in the bottom of the seventh, dashing home after Bradenton reliever Johan Montero spiked a wild pitch past his battery mate.
Bradenton was coasting toward the finish line and appeared to have the game all wrapped up…
Enter, Christopher Familia.
Cy Nielson loaded the bases with three straight walks, setting Familia up with a massive one-out opportunity. The Tarpon’s left fielder made of the most of it, coming up clutch once again with a line-drive grand slam that left GMS Field in a hurry.
Momentum clearly shifted towards the home dug out and Santos ended the game in the bottom of the tenth with an RBI-single to center field.
The Tarpons and Marauders return to action tomorrow night for game four of their six-game set. LHP Joel Valdez (0-0, 3.12 ERA) is expected to make the start with hopes of gaining some additional ground in the West Division. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM EST.