PORT CHARLOTTE — Through seven games, the Charlotte Stone Crabs couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities handed to them.
They finally did in Game 8.
After losing seven straight to begin the season — their worst start in franchise history — the Stone Crabs finally got off the schneid with a 9-5 win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers on Wednesday night.
Charlotte starting pitcher Jose Mujica set the tone from the beginning, throwing six innings of solid work to pick up the win. He only struck out one, but he threw 45 of his 70 pitches for strikes while giving up only three hits with no runs on his record.
“We played good baseball and it started with Jose Mujica on the mound,” Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns said. “He threw strikes and he threw strike one. I wish I could’ve put him back out there for the seventh but his pitch count was too high this early in the year.”
The Stone Crabs blew the game open with a four-run sixth inning to go up 9-0, but they didn’t make it easy on themselves down the stretch. Lakeland scored an unearned run in the seventh before plating four in the eighth, highlighted by a bases-clearing double by Joe Pankake off reliever Brandon Lawson.
Taylor Hawkins shut the door for Charlotte with a perfect ninth inning.
“Scott Lawson is going to be fine,” Johns said. “There was a ball where we should’ve been out of the inning anyways that he tried to bare hand. The double obviously made it a little interesting but Hawkins came in and finished us out 1-2-3.”
Kevin Padlo and Brandon Lowe both went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI for the Stone Crabs (1-7). Jake Cronenworth, Brett Sullivan, Dalton Kelly and Ryan Boldt also drove in a run apiece on a nine-hit night.
Lakeland starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull took the loss, leaving with one out in the fith after allowing five runs.
Charlotte went after him early in the first as Cronenworth walked and later scored on an error while Kelly’s RBI single put the Stone Crabs up 2-0 on the Flying Tigers (3-5) after an inning.
Two more runs came in the fourth on an RBI single by Boldt and an RBI ground out by Lowe. Padlo’s RBI double in the fifth ended Turnbull’s night.
Zac Reininger didn’t fare much better in relief as he gave up three more runs in the sixth on Lowe’s RBI triple and an RBI single by Cronenworth, who also drew three walks on the night. He got charged with another run on when Santiago Garrido came in to relieve him and immediately surrendered an RBI double to Sullivan. Padlo’s RBI single finished off the scoring for Charlotte.
“We played a really good game,” Johns said. “We ran the bases good. We had really good at-bats, which we’ve been having all year, so good for the guys. I’m proud of them. They stayed with it and hopefully we can start another streak now.”
The teams continue the four-game set at 6:35 today.