Lakeland MLN: Wrapping up 2010 Strong

Having been eliminated from playoff contention and with five games left to play, the Lakeland Flying Tigers approached the last week of the season in the same way they approached every other week.

"Just like we approach every game," manager Andy Barkett said. "Going out there, trying to compete, trying to win, playing at a high level the best we can."

Lakeland wrapped-up the 2010 season at home with two against Dunedin and three with Daytona last week, winning three of five to finish the second half at 34-34.

Despite roster volatility and a mid-summer downturn, the Flying Tigers were able to regroup and finish the season strong, winning 20 of their last 34 in August and September.

"The consistency of the approach to the game, day in and day out, has been really solid with these guys," said Barkett. "I'm very proud of the way they've gotten after it everyday, and that's a testament to our staff and our scouting department."

The Flying Tigers started the week in dramatic, marathon fashion, stealing a victory from the Blue Jays in 17 innings.

Cole Nelson threw seven innings of no-hit baseball and struck out five before being relieved by Bruce Rondon, who continued the trend by tossing another two innings of no-hit ball.

And Flying Tiger pitchers were not finished.

Matt Little relieved Rondon as the game went into extra innings, still knotted at zero. Little also did not allow a hit in his two innings, bringing the streak to 11 consecutive no-hit innings for Lakeland pitching.

Wilfredo Ramirez then pitched hitless 12th and 13th innings, and he recorded one out in the top of the 14th before Dunedin's Justin Jackson singled up the middle to end the no-hit bid.

All in all, the four pitchers combined to throw 13.1 innings of no-hit baseball. The Blue Jays would only get four hits on the night, but the real drama didn't start until the 17th inning.

After a single and a hit-by-pitch followed by a sacrifice bunt gave the Blue Jays their first real scoring opportunity of the night with runners at second and third, an intentional walk loaded the bases for Kevin Aherns. Aherns delivered a single, scoring the game's first run with one out in the top of the 17th inning.

Lakeland pitcher Dan Gentzler struck out the next two batters, and the Flying Tigers entered the bottom of the 17th trailing 1-0. With two outs and runners on first and second, Daniel Fields delivered a single, scoring Gustavo Nunez and tying the game. Jordan Lennerton, the potential winning run, moved to third.

Twenty-year-old Juaner Aguasvivas, hitting just .125 and in his fourth game as a Flying Tiger, made his first RBI in a Lakeland uniform a memorable one, singling and driving in Lennerton, as the Flying Tigers celebrated a 2-1 win in 17 innings.

The two teams combined used 12 pitchers and 34 players total, and before the final inning, the Flying Tigers left 17 runners on base and were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Lakeland would drop its final meeting with Dunedin the following night, 4-1, before Daytona came to town, bringing with them an opportunity for more late-game Flying Tiger heroics.

With Lakeland ahead 2-0 in the top of the ninth, and with Luke Putkonen having thrown eight innings of one-hit baseball and having faced just one batter over the minimum, fatigue finally set in, as he allowed a single and a game-tying two-run home run before being pulled. He allowed just two runs on three hits in 8.2 innings.

After holding Daytona scoreless in the top of the 10th, Francisco Martinez led off the bottom of the 10th with a walk and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. With runners at the corners, Luis Castillo laid down a bunt, and Martinez came down the line with the winning run, as the Flying Tigers recorded their second extra-inning walk-off win in three days.

They would defeat the Cubs, 3-1, before getting shut out in the season finale, 6-0.

Catcher Bryan Holaday made use of his last two chances to break out of a slump, going 4-for-6 with a double and an RBI in his final two games. Meanwhile, Jordan Lennerton finished the season leading all active Flying Tigers in every major offensive category, hitting .301 with a .393 OBP, a .505 slugging percentage, a .898 OPS and nine home runs.

The Flying Tigers finished the second half as well as the season 8.5 games out of first place. Though it was a struggle to reach .500 in the second half 34-34, they ended the season 71-67 overall, their first full season over .500 since finishing 85-48 in 2004.

Tigs Town Top Stories