TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Tarpons (10-5) fought until the end but came up short, dropping their series opener against the Daytona Tortugas (6-10) at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 6-5. The contest felt like a tug-of-war match with momentum swinging back and forth every inning. Ultimately, the Tortugas pulled just
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Tarpons (10-5) fought until the end but came up short, dropping their series opener against the Daytona Tortugas (6-10) at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 6-5. The contest felt like a tug-of-war match with momentum swinging back and forth every inning. Ultimately, the Tortugas pulled just a tad bit harder in their first visit to Tampa since July 24, 2019.
Things began on a positive note for Tampa, as SS Alexander Vargas put the Tarpons on top early by smoking a lead-off homer off the first pitch he saw from Julian Aguiar (7-5).
It was the one of the only blemishes on Aguiar’s report card, as the righty settled into a nice groove which saw him mow down nine Tarpons over five innings of work.
On the other hand, RHP Zach Messinger’s quest for that seemingly elusive first win of the season wages on. Messinger (0-6) lasted only three innings, surrendering three earned runs over three hits and five walks. Control was undoubtedly a problem and Daytona took advantage in the top of the second inning.
Steven Leyton started things off with a lead-off single to left field, followed by Hayden Jones who drew a walk. The Tarpons recorded two outs before Messinger issued Luis Chevalier a free pass to load the bases. Rafael Franco stepped into the box and did not see one hittable pitch; he watched four straight pitches to walk in Daytona’s first run and tie the game at one apiece. Austin Callahan ripped a ground ball single past the diving Ben Cowles at second base to plate another two runners and put Daytona ahead, 3-1.
The Tortugas tacked on another two runs in the top of the fourth, this time off reliever LHP Ryan Anderson (2.0IP, 3H, 2ER, 2BB, 3K). First, Franco blasted Anderson’s 1-0 offering to deep left center for his first home run of the season. Next, Callahan worked a four-pitch free pass, stole second base and came around to score on a single off the bat of Jack Rogers to increase Daytona’s advantage to 5-1.
Tampa’s next run came in the bottom of the fifth, courtesy of DH Ben Rice who launched his third homer of the season deep into the right field seats.
Rogers added another RBI to his stat sheet in the following frame, scoring Franco with a SAC fly off RHP Danny Watson (2.0IP, 1H, 1ER, 1BB, 4K).
The Tarpons also added an additional run in the sixth. 1B Anthony Garcia slapped a grounder the opposite way to plate CF Jasson Dominguez and the Tarpons went into the seventh trailing, 6-3.
Tampa never gave up and cut the deficit down to one in the home half of the eighth. Dominguez came through with an RBI double to score Vargas and crossed the plate again on a line-drive single by C Antonio Gomez.
Trailing by one, manager Rachel Balkovec called upon RHP Jack Neely (1.0IP, 1H, 1BB) to keep the game close and give Tampa a fighting chance in the ninth. The Tortugas managed to load the bases, but Neely was able to record the final out and escape the inning unscathed.
Despite LF Grant Richardson reaching base on a single and stealing second, the Tarpons went quietly in the ninth drop the series opener.
The Tarpons and Tortugas return to action tomorrow night for game two of their six game set with first pitch scheduled at 6:30 PM EST. RHP Tyrone Yulie (2-2, 4.64 ERA) is projected to make the start opposite RHP Tanner Cooper (4-1, 3.10 ERA).