Thursday's game of the day featured the top two teams in the IMG Wood Bat League standings. The Marauders (10-2) have gotten off to a fantastic start and have won 10 out of their last 11 following an opening day loss. The Manatees (7-4) have slipped after their 6-1 start; but still boast the only other winning record in the league. Today would be a chance for the Marauders to isolate themselves atop the standings or a chance for the Manatees to draw closer to the league's best record.
The Marauders drew first blood with a 2 run first inning. Dan Lee walked and Nick Dibenedetto hit a line drive double in the gap. Alex Linebarger recorded the RBI with a ground ball to the first baseman who conceded the run. Dibenedetto would later score the second run of the inning on a wild pitch .
The Marauders starting pitcher Lucas Donovan retired the first three hitters he faced in the bottom half to keep the lead at 2-0 after the first inning.
The second inning, however, belonged to the Manatees. Their starting pitcher, Bex Trout, matched Donovan by sitting down the Marauders in order. Trout also started the bottom of the inning with a walk, and Marty Greinke followed with a single. With runners at first and third, Carlos Somoza hit a sacrifice fly to get the Manatees on the board. Mike Webb followed with a RBI double into the right-field gap. After two innings the score was knotted at two.
Bex Trout returned to the mound and easily mowed down the Marauders, this time recording two strikeouts along the way. Lucas Donovan found himself in trouble in the bottom half of the third with the bases loaded and only one out. However he got out of the jam without allowing a run by inducing an inning ending double play.
The score remained tied at two until the top of the fifth. Trout had been dominant retiring 11 in a row before the Marauders found a way to scratch across a run. Eli Obstfeld scored Tyler Helphenstine with a RBI ground out to third base. The Manatees went down quietly once again in the bottom half of the fifth and the Marauders saw their chance to pull ahead.
The Marauder's offense got some help when Sy Cohen, Dan Lee, and Nick Dibenedetto all walked to start the top of the sixth. Sy Cohen came around to score on a wild pitch and Dan Lee followed when Alex Linebarger smoked a double. With Dibenedetto on third and Linebarger on second, reigning position player of the week, Randy Tallhammer stepped to the plate. Tallhammer busted the game open with a single down the right-field line. Both Linebarger and Dibenedetto scored. The Marauders were still threatening when center fielder Marty Greinke caught a fly ball and gunned out the runner who was tagging from third base to complete the double play. Carlos Somoza then made a heads up play realizing that the other runners had been caught near the same base. Somoza alertly ran at the runner, forcing a decision which concluded in a rundown for the third out of a triple play. The Marauders had widened the gap to 7-2 but the momentum quickly shifted to the Manatees.
After their first two hitters had been retired, the Manatees needed a spark. The spark came in the person of Bex Trout who tripled into the right field corner. He scored on a wild pitch and the bases were again empty with two outs for Marty Greinke. Marty singled, and then Carlos Somoza followed with another single. An error in the outfield allowed both Greinke and Somoza to score cutting the Manatees deficit to only two.
Jake Bader came out of the pen and provided quality innings on the mound for the Manatees, retiring his first seven batters faced and recording nine outs in that stretch (two from the triple play). In the bottom of the eighth, Bex Trout started the rally again with a walk. Marty Greinke followed with a single. A brief rain delay halted the action but only built the excitement in both dugouts. Somoza followed with a RBI ground out after the rain delay to short stop. Mike Webb completed the comeback by singling in another run. After being down five runs the Manatees leveled the score with the Marauders with only one inning left.
Marauders' Philip Dilandro ripped a triple with two outs in the ninth to put a runner in scoring position. An error off the bat of Peter Siegle gave the Marauders the lead. However, the Marauders still had to fend off the Manatee attack.
In the Manatee half of the ninth Sam Shields was hit by a pitch and represented the tying run. Giovanny Cordero doubled to put both himself and Shields in scoring position. A pitching change saw Tyler Helphenstine enter in a tough spot for the Marauders. A single would surely tie the game and possibly win it. Helphenstine rose to the occasion and retired the last Manatee hitter on a ground ball to shortstop to pick up the save and boost the Marauders record to 11-2.
The Marauders continued their strong start as they now have a five game lead over the second place Manatees. The Manatees lead over the Lightning falls to only one game. The Marauders and Manatees are both back in action on Saturday. The Marauders will challenge the Sea Dogs, while the Manatees will take on the Lightning.
In other league action:
Sea Dogs 4 7 0
Conquistadors 8 12 0
WP - Ryan Cabreja - 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 5 K
Top Performer - Sean McKenna - 4-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB
Lightning 4 6 1
Hurricanes 3 5 0
WP - Bryce Baker - 7 IP, 2 H, 6 K
Top Performer - Cas Dean 3-3, 2B, 2 RBI
Marauders 8 6 4
Manatees 7 11 0
WP - John Sakellariadis - 3 IP, 6 H, 2 BB
Top Performer - Alex Linebarger - 2B, R, 2 RBI
League Standings: (thru Friday, 7/16)
Team W L T GB
Marauders 11 2 0 0
Manatees 7 5 0 3.5
Lightning 6 6 1 4.5
Sea Dogs 4 7 1 5.5
Conquistadors 5 8 0 6
Hurricanes 4 9 0 7