Somewhere down in Fort Myers, the Miracle are breathing a sigh of relief and letting the champagne flow.
It’s a celebration Charlotte was intending on having with a win-or-go-home season finale against the sub-.500 Fire Frogs (51-80).
But despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead Sunday at home, the Stone Crabs (74-62) gave up five unanswered runs as their season ended with a 5-2 thud.
“It hurts a lot because of all the effort we put in all year long,” Charlotte manager Reinaldo Ruiz said. “It came down to the last game and unfortunately we couldn’t get it done.”
The Stone Crabs needed a trio of events to transpire in order to make the playoffs. First off, they had to win their final two games against Florida.
Charlotte also needed help from Clearwater, who could seal the Stone Crabs’ fate with a weekend sweep of Fort Myers.
The Threshers took one of two, falling 2-1 to the Miracle on Sunday setting Charlotte up with a win-or-go-home scenario with the Florida State League second half title up for grabs.
Charlotte dominated the first six innings of play with a solid effort from starting pitcher Brian Shaffer. Shaffer went six innings without relinquishing a hit.
In tandem with the strong pitching, Charlotte jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Stone Crabs a false sense of comfort.
Following a Jake Fraley hit that set himself up on second and Carl Chester on third, catcher Rene Pinto singled to left field to score Chester. Russ Olive followed with a sacrifice-fly to score Fraley.
But that would be the end of Charlotte’s success in the game.
After controlling the plate through the first six innings, Shaffer gave up a solo home run to Braxton Davidson to open the seventh, his lone earned run.
Florida took the lead in the following inning with a 3-run home run from Jordan Rodgers off reliever Jhonleider Salinas, which was helped from the driving winds in left field.
“The pressure was there,” Ruiz said. “We had the pressure knowing we had to win the game and we didn’t make the pitches and we paid the price there. The wind was blowing and they took advantage of it and at the end they won the game. It was weird, but that’s baseball.”
That’s where things fell apart for one of the best stone crabs teams in franchise history.
With the Fort Myers game becoming final just prior to the start of the ninth inning, the pressure was on to erase the deficit.
That pressure began to get to the players, though, as they continued to struggle in the final inning.
With runners on second and third, William Contreras sent a shot to the gap in center field, which scored Garrison Schwartz and Greyson Jenista to give the fire Frogs a 5-2.
Despite the unforeseen closure to the season, Ruiz has a lot to take away from his first season as manager with Charlotte.
The team broke eight franchise records including runs, batting average, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
“It’s very intense and I like that,” Ruiz said. “IT was my first years with the tema and the staff and this league is amazing. It’s very competitive and I really lerned a lot from this year.”