TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Tarpons (20-11) split their doubleheader Tuesday afternoon against the Clearwater Threshers (11-22) at George M. Steinbrenner Field. C Ben Rice played hero for the Tarpons in the opener, driving in five of Tampa’s six total runs. The lefty-hitting backstop drilled a go-ahead three-run homer in
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Tarpons (20-11) split their doubleheader Tuesday afternoon against the Clearwater Threshers (11-22) at George M. Steinbrenner Field. C Ben Rice played hero for the Tarpons in the opener, driving in five of Tampa’s six total runs. The lefty-hitting backstop drilled a go-ahead three-run homer in fourth and the Tarpons prevailed, 6-2. Game two proved to be a real nail-biter as both teams needed extra innings to settle the score – a SAC Fly proved to be the difference for Clearwater, who took the nightcap, 6-5.
The Tarpons tabbed RHP Yon Castro (4.1IP, 3H, ER, BB, 6K) as their game one starter and the righty rewarded the home crowd with a solid showing. Castro struck out six batters over the course of 4.1 innings, allowing three hits and a walk. He surrendered only one run in the top of the first. In his first Single-A at-bat, Ryan Leitch plated the first run of the game with an RBI-single up the middle to put the Threshers up early.
The Tarpons would finally answer in the bottom of the fourth and answered in a big way. Clearwater starter Starlyn Castro walked 1B Anthony Garcia on a full count and beaned C Antonio Gomez. With two men on, 2B Jared Serna ripped a single through the left side of the infield to tie the game at one a piece. Next up, Rice stepped into the box and cleaned the bases by pulverizing Castro’s 1-0 offering into the right field seats. His three-run blast put the Tarpons steadily on top, 4-1.
Rice helped Tampa tack on another two runs in the bottom of the fifth as well. With two outs and two men on, Rice came through again for the home team with an RBI-single to right field. Both Garcia and SS Ben Cowles came around to score, but Rice was thrown out trying to extend his hit to a double.
RHP Bailey Dees relieved Castro in the top of the fifth and went on to finish the game for Tampa. Dees gave up two hits and fanned six batters over 2.2 innings.
In the nightcap, Tampa turned to newcomer RHP Sean Hermann (5.0IP, 5H, 2ER, BB, HR, 5K) to toe the rubber. Hermann was assigned to Tampa last week and is ranked 27th in the Yankees’ farm system after the MLB trade deadline. In his second Single-A start, the right-hander was solid and surrendered two runs over five innings of work.
C Antonio Gomez provided the first offensive spark of game two by lacing a line-drive RBI-double over the head of Wilfredo Flores in left field to score SS Alexander Vargas. With two outs, DH Ben Cowles followed suit and ripped an RBI-double of his own down the left field line to give the Tarpons a two-run lead heading into the fourth.
The Threshers responded right away in the following frame. Hao Yu Lee drove a single to center field to lead off the inning and reached second on a throwing error by Hermann attempting a pickoff. That extra base would not matter though, as Caleb Ricketts tied the game with one swing of the bat – a mammoth blast to the seats in right.
RHP Danny Watson and RHP Harold Cortijo combined for two scoreless innings of relief to keep the Tampa in the game heading into the final frame.
Two Tarpons managed to reach base in the bottom of the seventh but both runners were left stranded to set up some free baseball at GMS Field.
RHP Zach Kohn replaced Cortijo in the top of the eighth but was unable to keep Clearwater off the board. With a ghost runner starting on second, Kohn walked Lee and Ricketts to load the bases. Kohn was unable to find his control and beaned Kendall Simmons in the shoulder to plate the go-ahead run. Additionally, he walked the next two batters as well to gift Clearwater a few insurance runs.
Luckily for Tampa, the bottom half of the eighth started much like the top half. 2B Jared Serna and Cowles both worked quick walks to load the bases with Gomez already stationed on second base. LF Christopher Familia took matters into his own hands and smoked a clutch two-run single to center to bring the Tarpons within one. 1B Connor Cannon was awarded first base after being drilled by a pitch, which led to the Clearwater gifting Tampa the tying run. With the bases juiced yet again, Cowles bolted toward home as he watched the pitch skip by Ricketts behind the plate to knot the game up, 5-5.
Such an exciting eighth inning was followed by what felt like a lackluster ninth – at least for Tarpons fans.
Leandro Pineda hit a SAC-Fly to right field to put the Threshers back in the drivers’ seat and Tampa went down quietly in the ninth to seal their fate.
The Tarpons return to action Friday night when they host the Clearwater Threshers for game four of their six game set, first pitch scheduled for 6:30 PM EST.