By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — In a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning, Charlotte shortstop Garrett Dunson sent a deep fly ball toward the left field wall.
It looked like it was gone.
Instead, it bounced off the wall for a double, only delaying the dramatics for one more at-bat. After Dunson stole third, Logan Tracy delivered a walk-off single that rolled through the infield to send Charlotte to a 2-1 win over rival Port Charlotte at L. Victor Desgun Field.
Charlotte sweeps the season series from Port Charlotte, which included a 6-0 win on March 1.
“I haven’t been hitting great all season. I was just trying to go up there and get a base hit,” said Dunson, who went 2-for-3. “I had people up behind that I knew could do something and move me over to get that run in.
“When I hit the ball I looked at it and it started curving and if that wind hadn’t been blowing I think it would’ve been out. But I got to second and my team picked me up and we got the W.”
It was a thrilling game highlighted by a great pitcher’s duel between Charlotte’s Kyle Machado and Port Charlotte’s Matt LePoint. Both throwers went the distance, with Machado striking out six and LePoint fanning eight.
The aces were so on their game that the game itself didn’t even see an earned run until Dunson crossed the plate. Machado only gave up four hits while LePoint surrendered five.
“It was a good win and a great pitching duel,” Charlotte coach Lavell Cudjo said. “These kids play hard against each other and it was a great game to watch. I’m glad we came out ahead. You have to tip your hat to Matt, he pitched well and Kyle pitched well. It was a good game all the way around.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth when Charlotte struck for an unearned run.
LePoint hit Dustin Thomas to start the frame and later committed a throwing error that moved Thomas to second. His catcher, Romain Reynolds, then committed another error with two outs that allowed Thomas to score from third after he advanced on a sacrifice bunt.
Charlotte’s defense returned the favor in the top of the seventh when Reynolds reached base on an error. Matt Derocher then tried to bunt Reynolds over with a sacrifice but beat out the throw himself at first. After a sac bunt by Jason James put both runners in scoring position, Machado intentionally walked LePoint before giving up an RBI single to Spencer Burkhart to tie the game.
Port Charlotte then tried to take the lead on a squeeze play with Trevor Bloom at the plate, but Bloom never got his bat on the ball. That left Derocher stranded between third and home plate and he was thrown out trying to retreat back.
“We were one squeeze away, one bunt away from going ahead 2-1. Who knows what would have happened if we’d scored,” Port Charlotte coach Rodney Taylor said.
“At that point if we had gone up 2-1 right there it would’ve been different but I’m proud of them because they were down 1-0 and battled back in the seventh. “They’ve been doing that lately, they’ve been getting down on the scoreboard but not within themselves. They’ve been finding a way to battle back and if we keep doing that at this time of the year, that’s great.”
CHARLOTTE 2, PORT CHARLOTTE 1
Port Charlotte 000 000 1 — 1 4 4
Charlotte 000 010 1 — 2 5 2
WP: Kyle Machado. LP: Matt LePoint. Leading hitters: (PC) Spencer Burkhart 1-3, RBI. (C) Garrett Dunson 2-3, R; Logan Tracy 1-2, RBI; Dustin Thomas 1-2, R; Records: Charlotte 12-5, Port Charlotte 11-7.