'Tees Swept by Miracle, Bitten by Long Ball in Finale
FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Brevard County Manatees could not keep the ball in the ballpark against the Fort Myers Miracle on Wednesday. Fort Myers (22-9 second half, 63-37 overall) hit three home runs, including a pair by Dalton Hicks, and powered its way to a 9-2 win at Hammond Stadium to cap a four-game sweep.
Miracle first baseman Dalton Hicks picked up where he left off a night before. After the left-handed hitter tied the game with a two-run shot in the 11th on Tuesday, Hicks began Wednesday with another two-run homer in the opening frame. The clean-up batter drove a pitch from starter Hobbs Johnson over the right field wall to put Fort Myers on top, 2-0.
Two innings later, the biggest power bat in the Florida State League helped the Miracle extend their lead. With two outs in the third, Adam Brett Walker hit a long solo home run over the left field wall.
The shot was Walker's league-leading 21st of the season and tied him with Brock Peterson (2006) for the Miracle's single-season home run record. On top of all of that, the long ball gave Fort Myers a 3-0 edge.
Things got worse for Brevard County (15-13, 51-43) in the bottom of the fifth. Johnson (9-7, 3.13 ERA) was still on the hill and with one out, the lefty induced a ground ball to second off the bat of Nate Roberts. Nathan Orf, however, could not handle the ball and Roberts reached on an error. Johnson then walked Hicks and Walker, back-to-back, to load the bases and the Manatees called on Scott Lieser out of the bullpen.
Travis Harrison was the first man who Lieser faced and the right-handed batter dribbled a slow ground ball toward third base. Greg Hopkins barehanded the ball, but could not throw to first in time to get Harrison. Roberts scores from third on the infield single to put Fort Myers a 4-0 lead.
The Manatees fell into an even deeper hole after Harrison's "excuse me" RBI. Lieser walked Niko Goodrum and hit Tyler Grimes, both with the bases loaded. The reliever struck out the next two men, but the damage was done. All six runs scored to that point were charged to Johnson, five of them were earned and Fort Myers was well ahead, 6-0.
Brevard got a pair of runs back in the top of the sixth. Orf led off with a single against Miracle starting pitcher Brett Lee. With one out, Tyrone Taylor singled and Victor Roache came up with a pair on. The designated hitter lined a single to left field and Orf came home with Brevard's first run. Brandon Macias later delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Taylor and the Manatees left the sixth with a 6-2 deficit.
Those Manatees runs did not turn into any sort of momentum for the visitors, as Fort Myers struck back for three more runs between the sixth and eighth innings. Twice, those runs came courtesy of Hicks.
The first baseman hit a broken-bat single to add a run in the sixth and he added his second home run of the day in the eighth with a solo shot. In between those tallies, Grimes slammed an RBI double in the seventh. The late offense gave Fort Myers a 9-2 lead and the Miracle bullpen shut the door.
Right-hander B.J. Hermsen pitched the final two innings and shut the 'Tees down in order both times. His work secured the win for Lee (7-2, 1.92 ERA). The left-handed starter pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on eight hits. Lee also struck out five Manatees hitters and did not issue a walk.
Johnson took the loss for Brevard County. He lasted only 4.1 innings and gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits. Johnson struck out four, walked four and gave up two home runs.
The Manatees have now lost five straight after being swept in the four game series at Hammond Stadium. Brevard County, however, will return home for an eight-game homestand, beginning on Thursday against the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Damien Magnifico (6-5, 3.70 ERA) is due to start the opener to the four-game series. He will be opposed by Joe Cuda (6-7, 5.94 ERA). First pitch at Space Coast Stadium is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
For more information on the Brevard County Manatees, call (321) 633-9200 or go online to ManateesBaseball.com. Also, don't forget to like the Manatees on Facebook and follow the Manatees both on Twitter and Instagram.
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