The Clearwater Threshers squeaked out a 2-1 victory over the visiting Brevard County Manatees on Friday night, thanks to a bases loaded walk to Scott Kingery that scored pinch-runner Drew Stankiewicz with the eventual winning run.
The Manatees (3-13) had just five hits in the game, as the offense continued to struggle. They didn’t have many chances against Elniery Garcia, who went seven innings, allowing just three hits. His team got him the lead in the bottom of the first. Carlos Tocci, Kyle Martin and Mitch Walding hit consecutive two out singles against Brevard County starter Brandon Woodruff and took a 1-0 lead. Brevard County tied things in the fourth inning with Johnny Davis drawing a leadoff walk. He stole second despite the throw beating him to the bag, thanks to a nice slide around the tag of the second baseman Kingery. Angel Ortega bunted him over to third and he scored on Clint Coulter’s grounder to shortstop, which was misplayed. Coulter was credited with an RBI, because Davis would have scored even if the play was made.
Clearwater (11-5) had many chances to expand that lead, as they had runners in scoring position in third inning, (Second and third), fourth inning (second and third) after a leadoff triple by Malquin Canelo and in the fifth (third base, no outs), when Josh Uhen took over for Woodruff after he walked the leadoff man. Uhen escaped trouble there and the Threshers came up empty in each inning. They left 10 men on base through the first five innings. Woodruff threw 87 pitches (52 strikes), giving up seven hits and one run. He walked four and struck out two.
The ‘Tees threatened in the top of the sixth when Davis doubled with one out and with his speed, tried to get to third, but a great throw by Kingery nailed him at third. That play was key, because Ortega would follow with a single, that would have given the Manatees the lead. Instead, Ortega was stranded and the game remained tied. Uhen (0-1) would give the Manatees some much needed relief as he retired nine straight before hitting Zach Green to start the eighth. Canelo would follow with a sacrifice bunt that Uhen fielded, but rushed his throw and allowed the runners to move up to second and third. Uhen exited at that point after three innings of one-hit baseball. He struck out four, throwing 42 pitches (28 strikes).
Junior Rincon was then called out of the Manatees’ bullpen. Rincon proceeded to walk Gabriel Lino to load the bases. One out later, he issued a walk to Kingery, scoring Drew Stankiewicz, who was running for Green. That run was charged to Uhen put the Threshers up 2-1. Clearwater was robbed of a bigger inning thanks to a great catch by Davis in right-centerfield, on a ball hit by Tocci. Davis went all out and made a diving catch, saving at least two runs.
Brevard County went down swinging in the ninth. They got a one out single from Coulter, who went to second on a throwing error. George Iskenderian followed with a single to center and Tocci came up throwing. He made a perfect throw to the plate, cutting down Coulter and with it, the game-tying run. Dustin Houle was the last hope for the Manatees, but he grounded harmlessly back to the mound and pitcher Jesen Therrien threw him out.
For more info: Brevard County @ Clearwater boxscore
The top of the order did all the damage for the Manatees. Davis had two hits Ortega, Coulter and Iskenderian had the other three. Walding had the only multi-hit game for the Threshers. Game two of the series happens Saturday in Clearwater. Brevard County will send Angel Ventura (0-1, 4.32) to the mound against Tyler Viza (2-0, 1.59). First pitch is set for 6:15 p.m.