The Brevard County Manatees and Clearwater Threshers scored early and often Friday night, with the teams combining for 11 runs in the first four innings of the game. In the end, it was the Manatees who hung on for a 6-5 win, with 1,795 in attendance at Bright House Field.
The Manatees (23-30, 52-70) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first against Threshers’ starter David Whitehead (7-11). After striking out Omar Garcia and Chris McFarland, Whitehead walked Clint Coulter and Garrett Cooper. Back-to-back RBI singles by Dustin Houle and Jose Pena put the Manatees in front. Steven Halcomb started the Manatees second with a single and stole second with Angel Ortega at the plate. For Halcomb it was his second steal of the season. Whitehead uncorked a wild pitch, moving Halcomb to third. After Ortega drew a walk, Garcia grounded into a double play, scoring Halcomb with the third run of the game.
Clearwater (34-21, 71-54) got a run back against Brevard County starter Johnny Hellweg (2-5). Aaron Brown singled to start the frame and Chace Numata got plunked, putting runners at first and second. One out later, Malquin Canelo’s RBI double made it a 3-1 game.
The Manatees answered in the top of the third, with a three-run outburst. Cooper doubled with one out, his 32nd of the season. After Houle was hit by a pitch, Pena stepped up and ripped a double to center, scoring Cooper and giving the Manatees a 4-1 lead. Whitehead’s control problems continued as he uncorked another wild pitch, allowing Houle to score the fifth run. Michael Ratterree’s sac fly brought Pena home with the Manatees final run of the night. Pena ended up with a 4-for-4 night at the plate, he scored a run and drove in two.
The Threshers scored once in the bottom of the third. Dylan Cozens singled to start the inning, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Houle. Cozens scored on a ground out by Andrew Pullin, making it a 6-2 game.
Brevard County threatened again in the fourth. Garcia singled with one out and after McFarland popped out, Garcia stole second base, his 49th of the season. Yet another wild pitch by Whitehead moved Garcia to third, but he would be stranded there, when Coulter went down swinging. Whitehead ended up with four wild pitches in the game. Clearwater hurlers did combine for 12 strikeouts in the contest, led by Whitehead’s six. Cody Forsythe and Alberto Tirado combined for six in their four innings of relief
Clearwater put together a three-run inning in the fourth, with a little help from Hellweg. He threw a wild pitch in the inning and committed an error, allowing a run to score. Carlos Tocci had a sac fly and an RBI grounder off the bat of Cozens made it a 6-5 game.
Hellweg was done after four innings. He gave up five runs, but only two were earned. He walked three, threw two wild pitches and struck out three. He gave way to Tristan Archer in the fifth. Archer was solid, allowing three hits over his four innings of scoreless relief. He did not walk a batter and struck out one. Preston Gainey came in to close the door in the ninth, striking out Jesmuel Valentin and Tocci back-to-back to end the game. With that, Gainey picked up his eighth save of the year.
For more info: Brevard County @ Clearwater boxscore
Javi Salas (7-8, 4.35 ERA) will try to win the series for the Manatees in tonight’s rubber game. He will be opposed by Victor Arano (4-11, 4.95 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.