By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Greg Harris did everything he could for the Charlotte Stone Crabs on Sunday to keep them in the game until they were ready to get a hit.
The right-hander held the Fort Myers Miracle to just one run on three hits over seven innings of work.
That effort was just barely enough, as the Stone Crabs were no-hit until the bottom of the seventh inning, before it was broken up by a Joe McCarthy home run, on the way to a 2-1 victory for Charlotte.
“Harris was outstanding,” manager Michael Johns said. “In a year and a half, that’s the best we’ve ever seen him. No just in terms of results – obviously the results were good – but the stuff was good, too.”
Miracle starter, Dereck Rodriguez, son of MLB-great Ivan Rodriguez, shutdown Charlotte for much of the night, but the Stone Crabs scratched and clawed their way into the game, even scoring a run before they recorded their first hit.
McCarthy’s home run in the seventh was the only hit surrendered by Rodriguez and the Miracle in the loss.
“This guy was on today,” Johns said. “It was his first start in the Florida State League, and he almost no-hit us. He was really good.”
Harris (8-6) was stellar in his outing. He struck out seven batters, and the only run he allowed was on a mistake pitch to Chris Paul in the third inning, who launched the ball over Miracle bullpen in left field.
Johns went on a mound visit in the seventh inning with two outs, after Harris walked his third batter of the afternoon. Typically, this would lead to a relief pitcher entering the game, but Johns elected to keep Harris on the mound, and was rewarded with an inning-ending ground out.
“I just wanted him to tell me he wanted to finish that seventh inning,” Johns said. “Before I could even get a word out, he said it in so many words. That’s what I wanted to hear. I didn’t want to hear any wavering, and he said ‘I’m ready to finish this inning.’”
The Stone Crab offense was silent for much of the day. Up until the seventh, the only baserunners were Jake Cronenworth and Nick Ciuffo, who each drew a walk.
Ciuffo’s leadoff walk in the fifth led to a run for Charlotte, as Nathan Lukes moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored a sacrifice fly from Jace Conrad.
“That was a good inning,” Johns said. “The sac fly was in that 50-50 range where you kind of debate to send someone like Ciuffo. At that point, you have to take a chance.”
On a play Johns referred to as the play of the game, Ciuffo threw behind LaMonte Wade, who had a leadoff double in the seventh. Ciuffo’s throw forced Wade to try to steal third base, but was unsuccessful.
This was the final game of a homestand for the Stone Crabs, where they went 3-2 over that span. They’ll now head on the road for eight games against Jupiter, Fort Myers and Palm Beach.