STONE CRABS: Charlotte bounces back

By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports

PORT CHARLOTTE — One night following multiple season and franchise worsts, the Charlotte Stone Crabs quickly forgot about a 16-run loss to the Fort Myers Miracle.

In fact, they didn’t even talk about it.

Charlotte jumped out on top early Saturday, scoring one run in the first and two more in the second before holding on late for a 4-2 win in the second game of a three-game series at Charlotte Sports Park. Roel Ramirez gave the Stone Crabs a solid performance in his first career start, pitching five innings of shutout ball to pick up the win.

“When you play 140 games you’re going to have some lopsided games and we hadn’t had one yet,” Charlotte manager Michael Johns said of Friday night’s franchise worst loss. “Yeah, it wasn’t pretty but it’s not one you focus on. We didn’t even have a team meeting today, we just said let’s tee it up and play tonight. The guys played well. They responded well after a tough night.”

Ramirez, who had previously made eight appearances out of the bullpen, only gave up two hits and struck out three in the start for Charlotte (22-25). Fort Myers (25-25) only managed to put one runner in scoring position against the right-hander and that was because Ramirez walked one Miracle and hit another in the second.

Charlotte’s bullpen made things interesting in the ninth as reliever Drew Smith allowed Sean Miller to hit a two-out RBI single to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with runners on the corners. But Dalton Moats came in and struck out Bradley Strong to grab the one-out save.

The Miracle’s only other run came via a throwing error in the seventh.

“(Ramirez) had everything working. He had the fastball command early and then he went to his slider later and he was unbelievable,” Johns said. “Then our bullpen stepped up tonight. We needed four innings from them, which is a lot to ask. We usually try to get two or three (innings) out of the bullpen but overall it was a good team win.”

Charlotte designated hitter Brett Sullivan went 2-for-4 with a two-out RBI double in the first to quickly put the Stone Crabs ahead. Jake Fraley’s RBI ground out and Jake Cronenworth’s two-out, run-scoring single extended the lead to 3-0 in the second.

“There were a lot of good things. We had some two-out RBIs and it was a game we needed to win after last night,” Johns said.

Things got heated in the sixth inning when Fort Myer starting pitcher Randy LeBlanc nailed Fraley in the knee with a fastball trying to bunt. Fraley immediately dropped to the ground at home plate in pain, causing both benches and bullpens to empty. No one was ejected in the fracas, but Fraley had to be helped off the field and was forced to leave the game.

“I don’t know how serious it is. Usually those are the things that we wait until the next day to try and assess,” Johns said. “Obviously, he was in some pain so hopefully he’ll be all right tomorrow.”

LeBlanc’s errant pitch loaded the bases for the Stone Crabs and Thomas Milone followed with a sacrifice fly for his first RBI of the season to score Ryan Boldt and give his squad a 4-0 advantage. LeBlanc suffered his first loss of the season, giving up all four earned runs in six innings on nine hits and two walks.

Following a five-game skid, the Stone Crabs have won three of four heading into today’s rubber match at 12:35 p.m. After an off-day Monday, Charlotte hits the road for an eight-game trip, four each with Tampa and Clearwater.

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