Wei-Chung Wang pitched six shutout innings Thursday night and the Manatees staved off a ninth inning rally from Dunedin, to win the series opener 4-3 at Space Coast Stadium.
Wang (9-4) allowed four hits in six complete innings, walking one and striking out four. He threw 94 pitches (57 strikes) and got some defensive help from his teammates to keep the shutout in tact. Taylor Brennan made a nice play on a high-hop and a spinning throw in the third inning for an out. Clint Coulter made a couple catches in right field, including a sliding catch in the third and a diving catch in the seventh to rob Dickie Joe Thon of extra bases.
Coulter had a good night offensively as well. He got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning. Omar Garcia singled to start the game and stole second, his 45th of the season. After Chris McFarland struck out, Coulter drilled his 27th double of the season against Jays’ starter Alonzo Gonzalez (2-4), bringing Garcia home. One out later, Robinzon Diaz singled home Coulter, giving the Manatees a 2-0 lead.
The Manatees (20-25, 49-65 overall) added a run in the second inning, helped by a Dunedin error. Brennan tripled to start the inning and scored when Dustin Houle reached on an error at shortstop, giving the home team a 3-0 lead. Brevard County’s final run came in the third inning. Coulter led off with his second double of the night and scored on Garrett Cooper’s single, making it a 4-0 Manatees lead.
Wang made that lead hold up, allowing two hits over his final three innings. On the flip side, Gonzalez lasted four innings for Dunedin, allowing four runs on nine hits and struck out four. Arik Sikula followed Gonzalez with two innings of one hit baseball and Chris Smith pitched the final two innings, allowing one hit.
Stephen Peterson took over for Wang in the seventh and got through his first two innings without much of a problem. Things started to unravel in the ninth. Matt Dean walked to start the frame and came home on an RBI double by Mitch Nay. With the throw coming home, Nay went to third. Derrick Loveless followed with an RBI groundout to first, making it a 4-2 game. With that, Peterson’s night was over.
Kaleb Earls was called on to shut the rally down, but issued a walk to Jason Leblebijian and a double to Thon, moving Leblebijian to third. After Jorge Saez struck out, Earls walked Anthony Alford to load the bases. With J.D. Davis at the plate, Earls uncorked a wild pitch and all of a sudden it was a 4-3 game. Earls came back to strike out Davis swinging, ending the game and giving Earls his sixth save of the year.
For more info: Dunedin @ Brevard County boxscore
The top of the Manatees order – Garcia, McFarland and Coulter all went 2-for-4 on the night. Diaz did the same from the five spot in the order. Coulter drove in his 52nd run of the season, while Cooper plated his 51st.
Game two of the series is Friday night at 6:35 p.m. Cy Sneed (3-1, 2.77 ERA) will take the ball for the Manatees against Jeremy Gabryszwski (7-6, 3.73 ERA).