Tough Breaks Doom 'Tees in Lakeland Finale
LAKELAND, Fla. - The Brevard County Manatees narrowly missed out on a sweep of the Lakeland Flying Tigers, but it was not for lack of trying. After a starting pitcher Damien Magnifico battled for five innings and a strong relief outing by lefty Stephen Peterson, the 'Tees fell to Lakeland in walk-off fashion on Thursday night, 6-5 at Joker Marchant Stadium.
The teams entered the bottom of the ninth knotted at 5-5, with Peterson beginning his fourth inning of relief work. Chad Wright led off with a walk and then a broken bat flair off the bat of Dixon Machado found its way into left field. That moved Wright up to third and the 'Tees (5-2) elected to intentionally walk Jeff McVaney to load the bases with nobody out.
Brevard went to the bullpen to try to save the game with Mike Strong. With Lance Durham coming to the plate, the Manatees brought the infield in. Durham, however, shot a ground ball passed first baseman Garrett Cooper to score Wright from third with the game-winning run.
Lakeland (4-3) had tied the game in the sixth inning. In Peterson's first inning on the hill, the Tigers loaded the bases on a broken bat single and a pair of well-placed bunts. That opened the door for Wright, who lifted a sacrifice fly to left that scored Austin Green and evened the score at 5-5.
Prior to the sixth, the 'Tees and Tigers exchanged big offensive innings. Lakeland's explosion came in the bottom of the first. The Flying Tigers scored four runs on three hits, as they received RBI singles from Durham and Green, a RBI ground out by Connor Harrell and a run-scoring double by McVaney.
To his credit, Magnifico bounced back from the rocky first. The starter did not allow a run through his final four innings of work and only surrendered two more hits. After a five-run third inning by Brevard County, Magnifico left the game with the lead.
The Manatees manufactured their offensive third inning with station-to-station baseball. Cooper and catcher Parker Berberet led off with singles and then third baseman Brandon Macias walked to load the bases. That brought up center fielder Tyrone Taylor who delivered a single that scored two runs in a roundabout way.
Taylor's single easily scored Cooper from third, but Berberet was about to stop at third when the throw came in from center field. Macias, however, was rounding second and heading for third. With the trail runner stuck between second and third, Berberet broke for home and scored with no throw from the cut-off man.
Later in the frame, the 'Tees scored three more runs to tie the game and eventually take the lead. After an RBI single by second baseman Orlando Arcia, right fielder Michael Reed beat out a would-be double play ball that allowed Taylor to cross the plate and even the score.
Reed then stole second base, which brought up left fielder Victor Roache with a chance to give Brevard County its first lead. Roache did just that, as he delivered a run-scoring single up the middle. He was quickly retired, however, when the throw from center was cut off on its way home by first baseman James Robbins, who threw to second baseman Brandon Loy. Loy had come over to cover first base and tagged Roache out rounding the bag to end the inning.
The 'Tees did not score after the third inning, which allowed the Tigers to come back for the win. Lakeland's Guido Knudson earned the win in relief. He struck out four and held Brevard scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings. Peterson took the loss for the Manatees. He allowed just two runs on four hits, over four innings in relief.
The Manatees continue their road trip as they begin a three-game series on Friday night against the Dunedin Blue Jays (6-1). Brevard is expected to throw lefty Jed Bradley (0-1, 14.54) against right-hander Jesse Hernandez in the series opener, which is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
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