CLEARWATER, Fla. – A grand slam in the ninth by Kyle Higashioka gave the Tampa Yankees (11-9) some insurance that proved to be vital in an 8-7 in a win against the Clearwater Threshers (10-10) on Tuesday night at Bright House Field.
RHP Eric Ruth got the start for Tampa and retired the first eight batters he faced before walking Devin Lohman in the third. After a walk by Chase Harris, Andrew Pullin lined a two-run double into right.
Tampa responded quickly in the fourth. Back-to-back singles by Tyler Wade and Miguel Andujar put the tying runs on base. A balk by Clearwater start Miguel Nunez advanced the runners before Wade scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball by Matt Snyder. Mike Ford then lined his first home run of the season over the wall in right-center, giving the T-Yanks a 3-2 lead.
The Threshers didn’t wait long to tie the game, as Mitchell Walding hit a solo shot off of Ruth in the home half of the fourth.
Ruth allowed three earned runs on four hits and three walks, striking out three in a no-decision.
Ericson Leonora kept the home run theme going with a go-ahead shot in the seventh off of Clearwater reliever Reinier Roibal (0-1), giving Tampa a 4-3 advantage.
In the top of the 9th, the T-Yanks rallied for some insurance. Matt Snyder and Ford each singled against LHP Cody Forsythe before RHP Kevin Walter entered for Clearwater. Leonora faked a bunt and blooped a base hit into shallow left field, loading the bases. That’s when Higashioka crushed the first pitch he saw over the wall in left field for his first home run of the season.
The Yankees took an 8-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Threshers made the game a lot more interesting. RHP Conor Mulle took the hill for Tampa and Clearwater loaded the bases with one out. Andrew Knapp hit a three-run triple past the diving Claudio Custodio in right field. Knapp then scored on an errant throw to third by Vicente Conde, cutting the deficit to 8-7. Dylan Cozens followed with a ground ball to third and reached as Miguel Andujar bobbled the ball.
RHP Chad Taylor entered for the Yankees. With Willans Astudillo at the plate, Higashioka threw out Cozens attempting to steal second. Astudillo would walk before Zach Green popped out to end the game. Taylor earned his second save of the year.
RHP Chris Smith (1-0) earned the win for Tampa after pitching an inning and two-thirds, allowing a pair of hits while striking out one.
Ford went 2-for-4 with a two RBI and two runs scored. Leonora also went 2-for-4, including an RBI and two runs.
Following an off day on Wednesday, the Yankees will travel to Lakeland to begin a four-game series against the Flying Tigers at 6:30 p.m. LHP Connor Kendrick (0-1, 14.63 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for Tampa. RHP Tommy Collier (2-0, 1.00 ERA) will take the hill for Lakeland.
The next home game for the T-Yanks is at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 1st against the Lakeland Flying Tigers on Fight Like A Kid Night. ALL ticket proceeds from the night will go to 3-year old Salvatore who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. He is planning to be here to throw out the first pitch!