By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Stone Crabs managed to force extra innings on Thursday with a run in the ninth, but some sloppy defense in the 10th squandered the comeback in a 3-2 loss to the Brevard County Manatees.
“We had a chance to score earlier in the game,” manager Michael Johns said. “You can’t blame the game on one error. Not in my mind.”
A pair of miscues from Andrew Velazquez, who was making a rare appearance at third base, led to Brevard’s winning run in the extra inning.
The first was a throwing error on a chopper from Malik Collymore. The throw sailed into the stands and sent Collymore to second base.
Then, when Collymore attempted to steal third base, Velazquez was unable to handle the throw from catcher Armando Araiza. The ball trickled into the outfield, allowing the Manatee to score.
“Guys make errors in the big leagues,” Johns said. “That was his first time (this year) playing third base. I think everybody needs to remember that. It’s not a natural position for him. It’s a different throw.”
Charlotte appeared poised to take the lead — and a win — in the ninth inning when it loaded the bases with nobody out. Moments later, the threat seemed neutralized after Jace Conrad lined into a double play.
However, with Alec Sole still at third, the Stone Crabs got a break when reliever Jon Olczak threw a wild pitch allowing Sole to score and tie the game 2-2.
“That was tough,” Johns said. “Conrad really squared that ball up nicely. The second baseman made a nice play.”
Greg Harris pitched well enough to win for the Stone Crabs. Harris allowed a leadoff single in the third and fourth innings, and those two hits turned into his only two blemishes, as only one other Manatee managed a hit off the Charlotte pitcher.
Harris got himself into trouble in the fourth, when a single and a pair of walks loaded the bases with just one out. He allowed one run to score on a groundout, but managed to limit any further damage.
“I thought he did a really nice job,” Johns said. “He did a great job grinding it out. He pitched himself out of some trouble, and overall his stuff was good.”
The righthander’s night ended with two outs in the seventh when he walked his fourth batter of the game. Harris struck out seven.
Brad Boxberger got the start for Charlotte, as he continues to rehab an oblique injury.
The Tampa Bay Rays closer retired each of the three batters he faced in the first inning, with his fastball sitting between 93 and 94 mph. He used that 94 mile-per-hour fastball for a strikeout to end the inning, and got a swinging strikeout on an 80 mile-per-hour breaking ball to begin the inning.
“It felt really good to be back on the mound, and to be back in my old form,” Boxberger said. “The second one and third one is always easier than the first one back. I felt like myself again.”
It was Boxberger’s second appearance for the Stone Crabs this week. He allowed one run in an inning of work during his first rehab appearance on Monday.
Shortstop Jake Cronenworth appeared in his first home game for the Stone Crabs on Thursday. He made his Florida State League debut Wednesday at Dunedin.
Cronenworth went 3-for-3 with a triple and a home run in his debut, and was rewarded on Thursday by being the leadoff hitter against Brevard County. He wasn’t as successful in this one, going 0-for-5.
“He’s a really good hitter,” Johns said. “He’s just learning how to play the shortstop position. He played a good shortstop tonight, and gives a good at-bat every time. He’s as advertised.”
Brevard County pitcher Jon Perrin allowed a two-out single in the first inning to Joe McCarthy, and then shut Charlotte down until the fifth.
Perrin surrendered just one run on four hits with four strikeouts.
Charlotte’s bats stayed quiet for the first half of the night. It wasn’t until Araiza beat out an infield single in the fifth that the Stone Crabs showed some life.
Conrad followed Araiza’s single with a double to cut the lead to 2-1.
MANATEES 3, STONE CRABS 2
HITTER OF THE GAME
Jace Conrad, Stone Crabs: The left fielder had two of Charlotte’s six hits in the loss, including an RBI double in the fifth.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Joe Perrin, Manatees: Brevard County’s starter held Charlotte to one run on four hits over six innings of work. He also had four strikeouts in the no-decision.
Ninth: Despite scoring a run to tie the game and force extra innings, the Stone Crabs had the bases loaded with nobody out when Jace Conrad’s rocket double-play line-drive to second base cut down the hopeful big inning.
THEY SAID IT
Brad Boxberger: “I like coming here and seeing the guys, but other than that, it stinks to be on the disabled list. I’m ready to get back.”