By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Jonny Venters made five appearances with the Charlotte Stone Crabs last season before hurting his Ulnar Collateral Ligament.
Venters was no stranger to elbow injuries. He had previously torn the ligament multiple times, leading to three Tommy John surgeries.
The former Atlanta Braves reliever hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since 2012, but hasn’t been detered. He continues to work his way back, and Friday night helped the Stone Crabs in a 4-3 victory over the Fort Myers Miracle.
“I was excited to get out there,” Venters said. “It felt good physically. I was probably a little too excited maybe, but my arm felt good and I had a good time.”
Venters faced three batters in his return. He struck out the first one, walked the second and then induced a double play to escape the eighth inning unscathed.
“What a good guy,” manager Michael Johns said. “He does so much for us as a staff with just the kind of human being he is. A lot of positives with him tonight.”
Venters’ scoreless inning came in between one tossed by Roel Ramirez and another by Darren Moats (5-0) in the ninth. That set the stage for Ryan Boldt to hit a walkoff home run leading off the bottom of the ninth to give the Stone Crabs one win in the three-game series and stop a six-game losing streak against the Miracle.
“That was awesome,” Johns said. “Ryan Boldt is a really good player. It was much-needed. We needed a jolt of life before going on the road.”
Boldt’s home run, his third of the season, came on the second pitch of the inning from reliever Alex Muren (0-2). It wasn’t the first timely four-bagger of the game for Charlotte.
Brett Sullivan launched a game-tying, three-run homer in the fourth inning to even the score at 3-3. The home run, Sullivan’s sixth of the season, also was his second three-run bomb of the year and gave him a league-leading 55 RBI. He’s also third-best in the league with a .310 batting average.
Eduar Lopez tossed an impressive six innings, especially when you consider the rocky start he had to the game. The right-hander allowed a pair of home runs in the first three innings, and surrendered a run to the first batter of the game.
He settled down nicely after the leadoff homer in the third to retire 12 of the next 15 batters he faced. Lopez also struck out five and issued just one walk while allowing four hits.
“He did a great job,” Johns said of Lopez. “He gave up two in the first and then we said that’s all they get. Overall, he did a really nice job. I don’t know the last time our starter went six innings.”
The Stone Crabs open a three-game series tonight at Jupiter before returning home on Tuesday to start a three-game set against Tampa.