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Have a day, Jose! Tampa's offense explodes to take series finale

Jose Colmenares is all smiles after hitting his second homer of the day at GMS Field. (Maggie Christensen)
July 16, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Tarpons (10-8) ended the Lakeland Flying Tigers' (12-6) twelve-game win streak Sunday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field with an offensive explosion. The Tarpons put eleven runs on the board behind the big bats of 3B Jesus Rodriguez, 1B Omar Martinez, and 2B Jose Colmenares,

TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Tarpons (10-8) ended the Lakeland Flying Tigers' (12-6) twelve-game win streak Sunday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field with an offensive explosion. The Tarpons put eleven runs on the board behind the big bats of 3B Jesus Rodriguez, 1B Omar Martinez, and 2B Jose Colmenares, who launched two home runs. The trio combined for nine RBIs while collecting six of the team's ten total hits.

RHP Hayden Merda (4.1IP, 7H, 5R, 4ER, BB, 4K, HR) made the start for Tampa and did just enough to keep the Tarpons in the game after his offense gifted him an early five-run lead. Merda used a five-pitch mix, primarily relying on his slider, which generated a whiff rate of 41%.

The unsung hero(es) of Sunday’s contest was Tampa’s bullpen. RHP Ocean Gabonia (4-0) and RHP Cole Ayers tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in relief, tallying six strikeouts while only allowing one walk and two hits.

RF Greg Allen continued his rehab stint (right hip flexor strain) and picked up one hit in his three trips to the plate. Allen’s hit came in the fifth inning when he ripped a 103.5 MPH single to left field. The true test for Allen during his rehab would be to see if his speed was all the way back. Allen proved that his injury is in the rearview when he stole second and third base after reaching on a fielding error in the sixth.

In the first, SS Jared Serna and Allen worked back-to-back walks. C Ben Rice singled to right field to plate the first run of the game and give Tampa the early lead. Rodriguez got "punched out", but the call was overturned thanks to an ABS challenge. Rodriguez took advantage of the second opportunity, doubling in two runs. Following the double, Martinez swatted a homer onto the roof of the outfield bar. Martinez’s eighth long ball of the year traveled 396 feet.

Manuel Sequera reached second on a throwing error to open the second frame. He moved to third on a flyout and came home on an RBI single by Carlos Pelegrin.

Andrew Jenkins started the third inning with a single, and Jose De La Cruz was drilled by a sinker. Mike Rothenberg stepped up to the plate and provided the damage, blasting a three-run homer off the batter’s eye in center field.

Seth Stephenson showed off his wheels in the fourth. He manufactured a run all by himself, starting with a bunt single. He then swiped second base, moved to third on a wild pitch, and tied the game on another wild pitch.

Allen’s strong rehab continued with a base hit to center. After Rice got hit by a pitch, Rodriguez sent his second double of the day to right field, driving in Allen. Martinez grew Tampa’s lead to three on a shallow single into center field.

Colmenares picked up his first Single-A hit in style, launching a solo home run over the wall in left field to extend the Tarpons’ lead to four. After Allen reached on an error and stole second, Rodriguez walked. The Tarpons then pulled off a double steal, but Abel Bastidas could not haul in the throw to second, allowing Allen to come home.

What’s better than your first Single-A hit being a home run? Your first two Single-A hits being home runs! Colmenares destroyed his second solo shot of the day, 429 feet to center field. The four-bagger got out in a hurry at 105.5 MPH and gave the Tarpons an 11-5 lead, which would hold to be the final.

The Tarpons will be back in action Tuesday night to take on the first-half champion Clearwater Threshers at BayCare Ballpark. RHP Sean Hermann is projected to start, with first pitch coming at 6:30 p.m.