TAMPA, Fla. - A late comeback fell short for the Tampa Tarpons in a 5-4 loss to the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the opener of a four-game series on Thursday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Donny Sands and Alexander Palma both homered while combining for all four hits by the Tarpons.
RHP Trevor Stephan stranded a runner at second base in each of the first three innings while keeping Charlotte (34-15, 69-46) off the board. After beginning the fourth with a pair of strikeouts, Michael Smith blasted a triple off the top of the right field wall.
Garrett Whitley followed with a double down the right field line, scoring Smith to open the scoring. Whitley took third on passed ball by Sands scoring on a base hit to right by Connor Hollis, giving the Stone Crabs a 2-0 lead.
Stephan bounced back with a scoreless fifth, stranding a two-out single while picking up his seventh strikeout. The 23-year-old allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits in five innings, walking one while striking out seven on 92 pitches (64 strikes).
RHP Stephen Woods Jr. faced one batter over the minimum while holding Tampa to one hit through the first four innings. In the fifth, Diego Castillo reached on a hit-by-pitch before Sands clubbed a two-out, two-run homer to right, tying the game at 2-2.
Charlotte responded by sending all nine batters to the plate against LHP Anderson Severino (L, 2-2) in the sixth, scoring three more unearned runs on one hit.
Moises Gomez drew a leadoff walk and broke for second a ground ball by Smith. Shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera made a wild throw into right field, allowing Gomez to score and Smith to take third.
One out later, Connor Hollis hit a groundball to Cabrera. Smith beat a throw to the plate as Hollis reached on a fielder's choice. Later, a two-out hit by Jake Palomaki and a pair of walks by Izzy Wilson and Ronaldo Hernandez forced home Hollis, giving the Stone Crabs a 5-2 lead.
After going down in order in the sixth, Tampa got a run back when Palma smashed a leadoff home run in the seventh. LHP Trey Cumbie relieved Woods Jr. and retired the next three batters to maintain a 5-3 lead for Charlotte.
Woods Jr. (W, 9-2) logged a quality start, yielding three earned runs on three hits and two hit-batters in six innings, walking none while striking out seven on 94 pitches (54 strikes). The two home runs allowed were the first given up by Woods Jr. after 71 innings pitched this season.
RHP Hobie Harris struck out the side in a perfect seventh and added a fourth punchout in the eighth before surrendering a two-out walk. RHP Matt Wivinis entered and, allowing a walk, got a flyout by Hernandez to end the frame.
Sands roped a leadoff double off Cumbie in the bottom of the eighth and, one out later, Pablo Olivares reached on a hit-by-pitch. A walk by Cabrera loaded the bases, prompting the Stone Crabs to bring in RHP Chandler Raiden.
Ona a 2-2 pitch, Angel Aguilar was hit by Raiden, forcing home Sands to make hit a one-run game. On the next pitch, Palma popped out to shallow center for the second out. Raiden then got Steven Sensley to ground into a force-out to strand the bases loaded.
Wivinis returned for the ninth and collected a strikeout while working around a two-out walk, picking off Smith on a 1-3-4-1-6-4 rundown. Raiden (SV, 9) added a punchout while retiring the side in order in the bottom of the ninth, closing the game for Charlotte.
Sands (2-for-3, HR, 2B, HBP, 2RBI, 2R) extended his hitting streak to five games and hit his second home run (his first since 4/6). Palma (2-for-4, HR, RBI, R) clubbed his seventh homer (third with Tampa) in 27 games between the Florida State League and Gulf Coast League.
The series continues on Friday at 6:30 p.m., with RHP Luis Gil (1-0, 7.00) scheduled to start against RHP Drew Strotman (0-0, 3.00). Live play-by-play will be available on the Tampa Tarpons Baseball Network.
On Sink-or-Swim Friday, fans can enjoy all-you-can-drink Bud, Bud Light and Select Liquors for $20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.