Vero Beach 4 at Fort Myers 6
W: D. Guerra (7-2, 4.83); L: B. Mann (3-6, 3.73); SV: A. Slama (11)
HR: VER: G. Groce (2). FTM: E. Ovalle (5), E. Tintor (2).
Edward Ovalle's grand slam home run in the 5th led to the Fort Myers Miracle clinching the West Division first half championship, and a playoff berth, on what turned out to be a beautiful night for baseball at Hammond Stadium.
Late afternoon thundershowers led to a somewhat soggy stadium, but the best field crew in the Florida State League turned out a perfectly groomed diamond despite the foul weather.
Deolis Guerra tossed out the first pitch right on time and went on to work 6.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits and one walk while striking out 2 for a quality start.
The Miracle opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when Whit Robbins doubled, the moved to 3rd on a Wilson Ramos single. Juan Portes would sacrifice Robbins in.
Vero Beach did not wait to answer back however, as Desmond Jennings singled with out one on the board. John Matulia would fly out, but Ceasar Suarez took a triple on a line drive when Eli Tintor slipped on the wet grass while trying to make a diving catch in the outfield. Jennings would score to tie up the game.
In the top of the fourth, Nevin Ashley singled and Garrett Groce put one over the left field fence to put the D-Rays on top.
Prior to the game, I'd congratulated Tintor on his first home run of the season and told him I expected at least 15 more of those out of him before the end of August. He figured the bottom of the fifth was a good time to start, as he clocked one over the center field wall to put the Miracle down by one. Danny Santiesteban would draw a walk and Yancarlos Ortiz moved him to second on a sac bunt. Ortiz would be given first though when pitcher Brandon Mann miss-threw the ball. Santiesteban took 3rd on the same play. Dinkelman then drew a walk to load the bags and you just KNEW what was coming. Ovalle's ball sailed well over the Beef Jerky sign in left to bring in four runs and give the Miracle a nice 6-3 lead.
Frank Mata would replace Guerra in the seventh. He'd give up a double to Matulia in the top of the 8th. After getting Suarez out on strikes, T.J.Hall would walk. Matt Fields' fly ball single to left brought in Matulia and a little bit of coaxing brought Jeff Smith out of the dugout and Anthony Slama out of the bullpen. Slama would take Ashely and Groce out on strikes to end the inning.
Juan Portes hit a nice double in the bottom of the 8th, but with 2 outs on the board, went no where with it. Slama would start the top of the 9th by taking Vero Beach short stop Neil Walton out on strikes. Joey Collander would single out to right, but Slama took Jennings out swinging. Callender would steal 2nd, but Matulia hit a nice little grounder to Robbins. Once Robbins foot hit the bag, the team came spilling out of the dugout to celebrate their victory.
No one had a multi-hit night, but that was okay. Wilson Ramos was the one hit wonder for the evening. Jim Rantz and Joel Lepal watched the proceedings from the stands. What tomorrow may bring, well...we'll see tomorrow, but for tonight, the Miracle are celebrating their championship.
Alex Burnett (5-2, 3.34) will take on lefty Mike Wlodarczyk (0-0, 0.00) for Vero Beach as the two teams rematch on a two-for-Tuesday. First pitch is schedule for 7:05 PM.
NDN - Portes
NDN - Portes II
Tyler Robertson will miss his start on Wednesday but says he will make his next scheduled start after the All-star break "which will be here."
"Against Sarasota," I nod as I collect my hot dog.
"No Dunedin," he says as we fight over condiments.
"Sarasota's in next. I just did all the photos so I could get autographs."
"Oh. I've never faced Sarasota before. That will be fun."
I think those are the same kids he faced like 16 times in GCL. I wonder if he'll face Smitty.
Meanwhile, Cole Devries has the pleasure of taking on the D-Rays top prospect David Price on Thursday. "I look forward to it," Devries said. I have no doubt Mr. Devries will kick his behind despite the fact that Price is 2-0 with a 2.26 ERA and has only allowing 3 earned runs in the 23 1/3 innings of his professional career.
Vero Beach will also be bringing a bus load of fans to the game. Much fun is planned for beer night.