CLEARWATER, Fla - The Threshers struck out 14 batters to break the all-time, single-season strikeout mark for a Clearwater pitching staff, but the Threshers were eliminated from playoff contention after a 5-3 loss to the Dunedin Blue Jays at Spectrum Field.
Dunedin (70-65, 36-30) earns the playoff bid as the wildcard, after the Tampa Yankees clinched both halves in the FSL North.
The 14 strikeouts for Threshers pitching gave Clearwater 1,166 total, topping their previous high mark of 1,161 set in 2012. Trevor Bettencourt cut down Cavan Biggio looking in the eighth inning to break the record.
Clearwater (66-69, 28-37) led early on Thursday, stringing together four consecutive two-out hits in the first to grab a 2-0 lead.
Cornelius Randolph got it going with a single to left on a payoff pitch from starter Jordan Romano. Darick Hall fell behind in the count 0-2 before pulling a grounder past second to put runners at the corners.
Wilson Garcia came through, knocking a single to right-center field to score Randolph and give the Threshers the lead. Austin Bossart followed with a knock to left to plate Hall and make it 2-0.
Edgar Garcia held Dunedin hitless through the first three innings, before Conor Panas laced a deep drive to center with one out in the fourth.
Panas' shot clanked off the wall and caromed away from centerfielder Mark Laird. Panas raced all the way around for an inside-the-park home run to cut the deficit to 2-1 on his league-leading 17th homer of the year.
An inning later the Blue Jays brought it even.
Edward Olivares opened the frame with a single, stole second, and went to third when the throw form Bossart carried through into center for an error. JD Davis followed with a double to left, scoring Olivares with the tying run.
Garcia exited following five innings of two-run ball in the no-decision. He allowed four hits and walked three, striking out four.
JD Hammer struck out the side in the sixth, blowing 96 and 97 mph fastballs by Juan Kelly and Michael De La Cruz before freezing Jake Thomas on a 96 mph heater to end the inning. Hammer turned in two perfect frames, whiffing five of the six men he faced.
Bettencourt opened the eighth by getting Biggio out looking for the record-breaking strikeout. With two outs, Panas lofted a drive over the wall in right-center for his second homer of the night to put the Blue Jays up, 3-2.
Clearwater came back in the bottom half, after an infield hit from Jose Gomez and a single to left from Randolph. With one out, Garcia delivered a liner to center, scoring Gomez with the tying run.
Dunedin again played the long ball to plate the decisive runs in the ninth.
Bo Bichette tripled with one out, and Seth McGarry (1-4) came up with a big strikeout of Biggio for the second out. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. delivered the big blow, lining a two-run homer to left to put Dunedin on top, 5-3.
The Threshers will celebrate Fan Appreciate Night in the their final home game of the season on Friday, with first pitch at 6:15 p.m. Harold Arauz (4-3) is on the hill for Clearwater against Conor Fisk (7-11), and the game will be broadcast live on threshersbaseball.com starting at 6 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.