The Palm Beach Cardinals took advantage of nine Stone Crabs walks, rallying back with a two-run fifth and a three-run seventh to defeat Charlotte Sunday afternoon at the Charlotte Sports Park, 5-3. It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Stone Crabs.
Charlotte struck first, scoring the game’s first run in the opening inning, thanks to the hot hand of second baseman Jim Haley, whose single to right, delivered home shortstop Tyler Frank.
Haley who had three hits against the Bradenton Marauders on Thursday and two more against the Cardinals on Friday, added another two on Sunday, raising his average to .289.
Haley started the season off slowly, but made some adjustments this past week and focused on pitch selection and swinging at better pitches.
“For me, you get those two or three games without a hit to start the season, and you’re almost searching for a hit, when in reality, you have to slow it down and be more selective of what you’re swinging at, as opposed to just swinging at anything to put the ball in play,” said Haley.
The Stone Crabs would score again in the third inning, this time with designated hitter Carl Chester going to the opposite field, singling to right, plating Tyler Frank and advancing Moises Gomez to third. Chester would go to second on the throw, but the Cardinals would get out of the frame without yielding another run.
However, Cardinals starter Johan Oviedo would settle down, working six innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, while striking out six and issuing two walks.
Charlotte starter Riley O’Brien ran into trouble in the fifth inning, leaving the game with the bases full of Cardinals. The right-hander walked five in 4.1 innings, and would give way to reliever Alex Valverde, who would proceed to walk Palm Beach first baseman Luken Baker, with the Cardinals plating their first run.
The Cardinals would tie the game on a sacrifice fly by center fielder Chase Pinder.
But it was designated hitter Zach Kirtley’s home run in the seventh inning, a monstrous shot to left field over the bullpen and into a pond that was the decisive blow off of Valverde.
A throwing error by shortstop Tyler Frank on a ball hit by Luken Baker, put the Palm Beach runner in scoring position. Second baseman Rayder Ascanio’s single up the middle brought Baker home, providing the Cardinals with a three-run cushion.
A walk, a wild pitch and a single gave the Stone Crabs some life in the bottom of the ninth, with first baseman Russ Olive scoring after Tyler Frank hit into a fielder’s choice.
Chandler Raiden worked the final 2.1 innings for the Stone Crabs. Valverde fell to 1-2 with the loss.
Frank, Haley and Olive had two hits each for Charlotte.
Center fielder Tanner Dodson came out of the game in the seventh inning, with Vidal Brujan, who had a rare day off coming into play second, Haley moving to left field and Garrett Whitley moving over from the one corner outfield position to center.
The Stone Crabs are at home against the Dunedin Blue Jays this evening, game time is 6:30 p.m.