Late Rally Falls Short
BRADENTON, FL (April 5, 2014) - At first glance, a 4-2 loss doesn't seem too bad. But upon further review, the box score tells a deeper story that shows the Marauders outhitting the Stone Crabs 10-2 for their second straight victory in front of 1,773 at McKechnie Field. The victory allows the Marauders to take the series with a win in Sunday afternoon's finale because despite a pair of late runs, Charlotte's offense was limited once again.
Perhaps the main storyline heading into the game was the Florida State League debut of Jeff Ames, ranked as the 30th best prospect in the Rays organization by Baseball America. With a combined 15-5 record and two All-Star appearances the last two seasons in Bowling Green and Hudson Valley, he seemed like the perfect candidate to help rest the bullpen. After a strong first inning, Ames grooved a first pitch fastball to Marauders first baseman Jose Osuna to open the second, which he turned on for a home run and 1-0 lead.
Following their struggles against Chad Kuhl on Friday night, the Stone Crabs went very quietly through the first four innings against John Kuchno. The Marauders righty got 5-4-3 double play balls in the second and fourth, then ran into some trouble in the fifth after walking Kes Carter and Marty Gantt. With two outs and runners at the corners, Josh Sale rocketed a deep drive to center field that Jeff Roy ran down and grabbed out of midair with a spectacular diving catch towards the warning track. Kuchno (1-0) would not return despite throwing five hitless innings.
Bradenton added a run in the fifth against Ames following two straight singles by Jordan Steranka and Jacob Stallings to put runners at first and third with nobody out. Third baseman D.J. Crumlich was one of the best players on the field all night despite sitting the first two games, and his sacrifice fly to deep right made it 2-0. Ames' final mistake came with one out in the sixth when he hung a breaking ball to the dangerous Josh Bell, who turned on the pitch and sent it over the right field wall to put the Marauders ahead by three.
After going nearly nine innings without a run, the Stone Crabs made noise with two outs in the top of the seventh against hard throwing reliever Pat Ludwig. Carter was already at first after reaching on a fielding error by the shortstop Adam Frazier. Hector Guevara then roped the first base hit of the night to left before Gantt's RBI single into center made it 4-1. Sale then struck out looking as the tying run at the plate. After Andrew Toles scored to make it 4-2 in the eighth on a fielding error by Ludwig off a Carter groundball, the tying runs were at first and second with two outs. The runners then attempted a double steal, but Stallings made a perfect throw to third base and Tyler Goeddel was tagged out to retire the side.
Notes: Jonathan Quinonez made his first start of the year at first base but had to be removed from the game in the eighth inning after being hit in the jaw with a Ludwig fastball...Patrick Leonard took his place in the lineup but did not get an at bat...Toles got himself in position to score in the eighth by stealing second and third base on consecutive pitches for his first two steals of the year...he led the entire organization with 62 steals last season...Carter finished 0-for-2 but reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances...the Stone Crabs are just 5-for-23 with runners in scoring position through the first three games of the series and have been outhit 28-7 in the last two...Ames (0-1) allowed three runs on six hits across 5.1 IP, walking one and striking out four.
The series concludes on Sunday afternoon when the teams return to McKechnie Field for a 1:00 start. Fast-working righty Austin Pruitt will try and earn the split for the Stone Crabs against Bradenton southpaw Orlando Castro. Follow the game by listening live on the Stone Crabs website by visiting www.stonecrabsbaseball.com. Or if you're in the Port Charlotte area, tune into WVIJ 91.7 FM on your radio dial. The Stone Crabs Pregame Show begins at 12:50 on the Stone Crabs Radio Network.
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