DUNEDIN, Fla. - The Clearwater Threshers ended 2017 on a high note, taking down the playoff-bound Blue Jays by a 3-1 final on Sunday evening at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Mark Laird wrapped up the year with a 1.000% fielding percentage in 98 games in center, making him the first Florida State League outfielder in five years to turn in a perfect season in the field. The last to do so was former Thresher Pete Lavin in 2012. Laird also finished sixth in the league in hitting with a .286 average.
JoJo Romero earned the win after six strong innings, in which he yielded only an unearned run on four singles. The lefty did not issue a walk, struck out four, and ended the season with a 2.24 ERA in 10 starts as a Thresher.
Edgar Cabral threw out all three attempted base stealers on Sunday, and finished having nabbed 13-of-24 (54.2%) since joining Clearwater.
The Blue Jays (72-66, 38-31) plated an unearned run in the second inning on Sunday to take the early lead. Connor Panas reached on a two-base error on second baseman Grenny Cumana, and advanced to third on a grounder. Michael De La Cruz chopped a single through the drawn-in infield to give Dunedin a 1-0 edge.
Clearwater (67-71, 29-39) came back to tie it, as Laird kickstarted the offense with a double to right-center to open the third.
Emmanuel Marrero's ground ball to second advanced Laird, and Darick Hall brought him home with a double down the third base line to knot the game up at one.
The Threshers broke out in front in the sixth.
Wilson Garcia started the rally by lining a double over the head of left fielder DJ Davis. Cabral then doubled to right, but Garcia was held up at third. Jose Pujols came through by lofting a sacrifice fly to right to score Garcia and give the Threshers the 2-1 lead.
Cumana then reached on an error on a grounder to short, which scored Cabral to make it 3-1.
The bullpen took it the rest of the way.
Seranthony Dominguez entered and hurled a perfect seventh, and Trevor Bettencourt allowed just a two-out single in the eighth before Davis was caught stealing to end the inning.
Seth McGarry took over in the ninth and permitted a leadoff single, but got Bo Bichette to ground into a double play to kill the threat. McGarry induced a fly out to right from Cavan Biggio to end the ballgame, locking down his 19th save. The right-hander ends the year in a tie with former Thresher Jeff Singer for the league lead in saves, each with 19.
The FSL playoffs begin on Tuesday, when Dunedin battles the Tampa Yankees in the North, and the Palm Beach Cardinals take on the Fort Myers Miracle in the South. The winners of each series will face off in a best-of-five set for the league championship.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.