By Bryan Levine, SuncCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Nine innings weren’t needed to decide Friday’s Charlotte Stone Crabs game.
The Fort Myers Miracle put the game out of reach in the second inning, and then things got out of control in the third on the way to a 17-1 win in the opener of a three-game series.
“When you play 140 games there’s going to be some blowouts. You just hope you’re on the right end of them,” manager Michael Johns said. “It’s not a game you really dwell on. You get over it.”
The Miracle sent 24 batters to the plate in those two innings, scoring 13 of their runs.
Making his first start of the season, Stone Crabs pitcher Taylor Hawkins was tagged for seven runs while recording just four outs. Reliever Michael Santos wasn’t able to end the Miracle threat in the second inning, allowing two inherited runners to score plus another one credited to him.
Santos’ struggles continued in the third, allowing five more runs.
“I thought the knuckleball was pretty good,” Johns said of Hawkins. “His pitch count got up, so we had to take him out early.”
By the fifth inning, when it was 15-1, all nine hitters in the Fort Myers lineup had scored at least one run.
The 17 runs were the most the Stone Crabs have allowed all season, and the 16 hits also were a season-worst. Fort Myers was an outstanding 10-for-21 with runners in scoring position.
One bright spot for the Stone Crabs was the continued success of Brandon Lowe. The second baseman hit his second home run in as many days to give him five on the season.
It also was Lowe’s 24th extra-base hit of the season. He had only 23 in 103 games played last season.
“I don’t know (what the difference has been since last year). It’s funny you ask that because I was going to ask him the same thing,” Johns said. “All I know is he’s a really good hitter. He’s done it all. He’s about as locked in as I’ve seen a player.”
Joe Serrapica tossed 2.2 innings of relief and managed to keep the Miracle scoreless during his time on the mound. He allowed just three hits and struck out three.
The teams play the second game at 6:05 p.m. today.