By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — A day removed from a pair of one-run victories over the Brevard County Manatees, the Charlotte Stone Crabs did it one more time.
Thomas Milone led off the 10th inning with a triple, which set up Jake Cronenworth for an easy walk-off single to give Charlotte a 7-6 win.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns said. “(But games like that) will give the manager a heart attack. I don’t want any more one-run games.”
The triple was Milone’s fourth time reaching base on Sunday following a single and a pair of walks. He totaled three runs scored in the win.
“It was one of those games,” Johns said. “It was so hot out there. It felt like a five-hour game.”
The Stone Crabs (49-49) trailed 5-2 after the Manatees (33-65) scored four runs in the sixth. Charlotte scored two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth with Jace Conrad delivering the game-tying single to score Grant Kay.
After Conrad’s hit, Manatee pitcher Preston Gainey threw 14 straight balls to four different batters, obviously walking three straight. Cronenworth drew the bases-loaded pass to give Charlotte a 6-5 lead.
Brevard County managed to tie it back up at 6-6 with a run in the top of the ninth.
“For whatever reason, it seemed like neither team’s bullpen could throw strikes,” Johns said. “Both teams were trying to grind it out.”
Baserunning wasn’t a strong point for the Stone Crabs on Sunday. Three runners were caught attempting to steal, and another was picked off while leading from first base.
Once again, another Tampa Bay Rays player was down in Port Charlotte, rehabbing from an injury. On Sunday, it was pitcher Chase Whitley, who had Tommy John surgery last year.
Whitley allowed a hit and a walk in two scoreless innings. He was bailed out by some good defense after allowing a leadoff double in the second, and helped his own cause when he started an inning-ending double play.
Steve Ascher took over in the third and was solid until Brevard sent nine men to the plate in the sixth. Two singles followed by two doubles — all with two outs — ended the day for Ascher, who allowed five runs on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts.
Charlotte got on the board early, with a run in the first inning. Cronenworth capitalized on a leadoff walk, went to third on a single by Mac James and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kay.
STONE CRABS 7, MANATEES 6
HITTER OF THE GAME
Thomas Milone, Stone Crabs: From the No. 9 spot, Milone reached base four times, and scored three runs. Including the game-winning run in the 10th after a leadoff triple.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Chase Whitley, Stone Crabs: Whitley pitched for the first time since May of last year, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. The rehabbing Ray threw two scoreless innings in the outing.
Eighth: The Stone Crabs had just lost the lead in the top of the frame, but answered with a run to tie thing sup in the bottom half. It was Jace Conrad’s one-out RBI single which made the difference there.
THEY SAID IT
— Michael Johns Stone Crabs manager: “(But games like that) will give the manager a heart attack. I don’t want anymore one-run games.”