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Smith’s Late Homer Lifts Tampa Over Lakeland, 5-4

Bell, Sanford Stay Hot with Multi-Hit Games
Josh Smith hit a go-ahead 2-run HR in the 7th (Mark LoMoglio)
June 1, 2021

TAMPA, FLA. – After squandering a late lead, the Tampa Tarpons (18-7) got a go-ahead home run by Josh Smith – his third homer in six games – and held on to defeat the Lakeland Flying Tigers (12-13), 5-4, in the series-opener on Tuesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

TAMPA, FLA. – After squandering a late lead, the Tampa Tarpons (18-7) got a go-ahead home run by Josh Smith – his third homer in six games – and held on to defeat the Lakeland Flying Tigers (12-13), 5-4, in the series-opener on Tuesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

RHP Beck Way made his second start and, as he did in his first, logged a scoreless inning and a third. The 21-year-old struck out a pair while stranding a one-out walk in the first and added a third punchout before yielding a single prior to departing after 30 pitches (17 strikes).

After two quick outs in the home half of the first, Austin Wells worked a walk against Lakeland starter Joseph Salazar. Wells then took third on a base hit by Jake Sanford before both runners advanced on a run-scoring wild pitch. Andres Chaparro followed with a seeing-eye single into center, scoring Sanford for a 2-0 lead before Salazar escaped the frame.

Edgar Barclay relieved Way with one on and one out in the second and struck out a pair to end the inning. The southpaw went on to retire eight-of-nine batters faced, collecting a season-high five strikeouts while walking one over a scoreless/hitless two and two-third innings.

In the fourth, Carlos Narvaez drew a one-out walk and took third on a base hit by Chad Bell before both runners advanced on a passed ball, giving Tampa a 3-0 lead. Salazar retired the next two batters to complete his outing. The right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks, striking out two on 81 pitches (44 strikes).

RHP Blane Abeyta (W, 3-1) took the baton from Barclay in the fifth and retired six of the first seven batters faced before issuing a leadoff walk in the seventh. One out later, a second walk brought up the tying run, and Jimmy Kerr blasted a two-run triple off the centerfield wall before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Navigato, tying the game at 3-3.

In relief of Salazar, RHP Austin Bergner (L, 1-2) logged a pair of perfect innings in the fifth and sixth before allowing a one-out single by Pat DeMarco in the seventh. Smith followed with a two-run blast to right field, putting the Tarpons back in front, 5-3.

In the eighth, Gage Workman brought the Flying Tigers back to within one with a leadoff homer to right-center off RHP Derek Craft. Craft later stranded a one-out double to maintain a 5-4 lead for Tampa.

After the Tarpons went down quietly against LHP Matt Walker in the bottom of the eighth, Craft returned for the ninth. Alvaro Gonzalez reached on an error to begin the frame and, two outs later, Kingston Liniak singled to left. Michael Giacone (SV, 1) entered to face Workman, and the lefty got a strikeout to secure the win.

Bell (2-for-3) extended his hitting streak to seven games, and his on-base streak to 21 games. Sanford (2-for-4, R) logged his second-straight multi-hit game and is batting .366 (15-for-41) over his last 10 games.

The series continues Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., with a TBA Tarpons starter set to face LHP Adam Wolf (2-1, 3.21). On Baseball Bingo Wednesday, the first 200 fans through the gates will receive a Baseball Bingo card to play during the game. The first 10 Bingo winners will receive a Tarpons prize.