The Brevard County Manatees finally came out on the winning side of the ledger Thursday, with a 5-4 victory at Space Coast Stadium, sending 1,142 fans home happy for the first time this season. The win was the first for the Manatees at home and their first win of any kind, since a 13-0 drubbing of the St. Lucie Mets back on April 17. “It definitely felt good to shake hands after the game,” said Manatees manager Joe Ayrault. “Our guys showed a lot of heart and battled.”
Things didn’t look good early for the Manatees, who were let down by their defense again, something that has plagued this team throughout the losing streak. After Manatees’ starter Brandon Woodruff got the leadoff man to fly out, Jared Reaves hit a seemingly harmless fly ball to Clint Coulter in right. Coulter was under it, but inexplicably had the ball hit off his glove, allowing Reaves to go to second. After Mike Gerber grounded out, which would have been the third out — Christin Stewart was hit by a pitch. That allowed Kade Scivicque to come to the plate and he laced an RBI single to left, scoring Reaves and giving the Flying Tigers a 1-0 lead.
The Manatees (4-17) would find a run in the second against Lakeland starter Endrys Briceno. George Iskenderian started the inning being hit by a pitch. It was the first of three times on the night, that Brevard County’s designated hitter would take one for the team. Dustin DeMuth grounded out, but moved Iskenderian to second. Fidel Pena followed with a single, putting runners at first and third. It wouldn’t be the last time Pena would be heard from. Taylor Brennan’s RBI single got the Manatees on the board. They would get runners to second and third with one out, but they would not be able to bring them home.
Woodruff struggled in the third, loading the bases with one out. He would uncork a wild pitch, giving Lakeland a 2-1 lead. It looked like he would be bailed out of further trouble, when Scivicque checked his swing and hit a slow roller to first. DeMuth came home with it and threw the ball over catcher Gregory McCall’s head, allowing two runs to score and giving the Flying Tigers a 4-1 lead. “Lakeland took advantage of some miscues early in the game,” Ayrault said. “But we were able to bounce back.” That was the difference for the Manatees, who showed the ability to bounce back in their loss last night, but for the most part that is a trait that has been lacking during the losing streak.
Kender Villegas relieved Woodruff to start the fifth. Woodruff was credited with four innings of work, allowing two hits and four runs, with just one of them earned. He walked two and struck out three on 82 pitches (45 strikes).
The ‘Tees got a run back in the fifth inning, closing the gap. Davis laid down a sweet bunt and stole second one batter later. After Coulter walked, Iskenderian was hit again, loading the bases. Willy Paredes came in from the Lakeland bullpen and immediately gave up a single to DeMuth, scoring Davis and making it a 4-2 game.
Villegas (1-3) was lights out in his four innings of work for the Manatees. He struck out two of three batters he faced in the fifth and sixth inning and struck out the side in the seventh. He added one strikeout in the eighth and ended his night with eight K’s. He did not allow a hit and did not walk a batter. “He was outstanding,” said Ayrault of Villegas. “Mixed his pitches very well, utilized his off-speed stuff and kept them off-balance for four innings. He can pretty much throw anything in any count, tonight he was on.” When all was said and done, Villegas threw 45 pitches, 34 were strikes.
The Manatees offense rewarded him in the bottom of the eighth, with some help from the Lakeland fielders. Paredes started the inning by Plunking Iskenderian. After Iskenderian stole second, Paredes walked DeMuth and that was the end of the road, as Lakeland went to the bullpen for hard-throwing righty, Edgar De La Rosa. Pena was next to the plate and he laid down a perfect bunt that creeped up the third base line. By the time De La Rosa picked it up, Pena was already at the bag. De La Rosa decided to throw anyway and the ball went into short right field, allowing two runs to score and tying the game at four. Pena was credited with a single on the play, with an error charged, allowing the runs to score.
“Great bunt by Pena,” said Ayrault. “That pitcher, he throws cheese man, De La Rosa brings it up there about 98 and it was a perfectly placed bunt put pressure on him and threw it away.” Brennan and McCall followed with strikeouts, but on the McCall strikeout, Pena, who was at second, waited to make sure the catcher threw the ball to third. As soon as he did, Pena took off and went to third.
That would prove to be huge, because Pena would later score the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Without him going to third on the earlier play, the run doesn’t score. “Great base running all the way around,” Ayrault said. “DeMuth scored from first on the Pena bunt play and got to third on the strikeout and scores on the wild pitch.”
Tyler Spurlin came in to nail down his third save of the season, with a big ninth inning. He allowed just one hit and struck out two. Offensively, the Manatees managed just six hits. Davis and Pena were each 2-for-4. Angel Ortega took a rare 0-for-4 and his average dropped to .333
For more info: Lakeland @ Brevard County boxscore
With the losing streak in their rearview mirror, the Manatees will enjoy a rare Friday off, before playing a doubleheader in Tampa on Saturday. The series was originally slated to start Friday, but a Beyoncé concert in close proximity to the stadium that night, would have made things difficult, so they decided to scrap the Friday game and play two on Saturday. Game one is set for 5:05 p.m. Ayrault has yet to officially name his starters.