By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Opportunities continue to present themselves, but just like in the previous six games, the Charlotte Stone Crabs were unable to take advantage Tuesday afternoon.
For the seventh straight time to begin the 2017 season, the Stone Crabs were on the losing end of things, this time an 8-7 decision in 10 innings against the Palm Beach Cardinals.
“It definitely wasn’t pretty,” Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns said. “We pride ourselves as an organization and a team on pitching and defense, and we’re usually pretty good. Today, we weren’t very good. It happens. It’s still early in the season, but it was a frustrating game.”
It was a bizarre, sloppy game for both sides, one in which Charlotte led 5-3 at one point. The teams combined for 26 hits, but suffered six errors total.
Second baseman Peter Maris committed three of Port Charlotte’s four errors, and could’ve been credited with four. The Stone Crabs by no means lost because of his errors, but two Maris miscues in the second inning directly led to Palm Beach (5-2) taking a 2-0 lead.
“We’re going to catch the baseball most nights. It was just a tough night for us,” Johns said.
It wasn’t an error that got the Cardinals their winning runs. Luke Dykstra, who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the eighth inning, came to the plate against Bryan Bonnell in the 10th and smoked a two-run home run to give Palm Beach the ultimate winning runs.
The Stone Crabs got one run back in the bottom of the 10th after Jake Cronenworth hit a leadoff double, and then a couple of productive outs pushed him across the plate.
In Monday night’s loss, Charlotte’s pitchers consistently began counts behind to Palm Beach batters while issuing nine walks. That wasn’t the case Tuesday when they only allowed two free passes.
“Our pitchers were in the strike zone, so that’s a positive,” Johns said. “We’re trying to take small victories away from all these games, and I think that was one of them.”
One problem was the Charlotte defense and pitching following innings where the Stone Crabs scored. Charlotte put up runs in the second, fourth and eighth innings, and Palm Beach came back to score in the third and fifth.
“It’s tough for us to hold on to (leads) right now,” Johns said. “Momentum is a big thing in baseball. When we have the lead we need to be able to have a shutdown inning.”
Dalton Kelly had a nice game in the loss, reaching base four times with a pair of walks and singles while scoring three runs. Cronenworth actually lowered his season average by going 2-for-5 on the day.