A controversial call at home plate cemented the first walk-off victory for the Fort Myers Miracle this season with a 3-2 comeback win over the Palm Beach Cardinals on Saturday night at Hammond Stadium.
A rowdy crowd of 2,322 erupted in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Miracle pushed across two runs without the benefit of a hit. Leading 2-1, Palm Beach manager Dann Bilardello turned to closer Dixon Llorens. Struggling to find the strike zone, Llorens (0-1) hit the first batter of the inning, Niko Goodrum. Then, Llorens walked both Nate Roberts and Adam Brett Walker to load the bases.
Llorens rallied to punch out Dalton Hicks on three pitches. Then, a 1-1 breaking ball clipped Travis Harrison on the back to plate the tying run 2-2. The next batter, Max Kepler, worked a 3-1 count before hitting a chopper to shortstop Alex Mejia. Fielding cleanly and throwing home, Mejia appeared to have gotten the force out on Roberts, but catcher Dante Rosenberg was ruled to have dropped the ball, not in transition. Roberts was deemed safe and the Miracle earned a walk-off win for the first time in 2014.
The series opener started as a pitcher's duel between Miracle starter Matt Tomshaw and Cardinals starter Nick Petree. Palm Beach struck first in the second inning. Luke Voit led off with a triple into right center and trotted home on a RBI double from Mejia, 1-0.
Petree went five scoreless innings in a no decision and surrendered just two hits before exiting the game prior to the bottom of the sixth with an apparent injury.
In the seventh, the Miracle drew even on an inside-the-park home run from Walker. His league leading 15th of the season, Walker hit a fly ball to deep center field that was lost in the sky by Charlie Tilson. Racing around the bags, Walker was waved home by Doug Mientkiewicz and beat the tag of Rosenberg with an acrobatic head-first slide.
The Cardinals regained the lead in the eighth. Tomshaw gave up a lead-off triple to Anthony Garcia. After getting Voit to ground out to short without advancing the runner, Mientkiewicz turned to the bullpen and brought in Mason Melotakis.
Mejia, the first batter Melotakis faced, dropped a bloop single into center field to plate Garcia, 2-1. Melotakis retired the next two hitters. Madison Boer pitched a perfect ninth. Boer (1-1) struck out one and was the beneficiary of the first ninth inning comeback victory of the season for the Miracle for his first win.
Fort Myers (47-30, 6-2) hosts the Cardinals (43-36, 7-3) at Hammond Stadium at 4:05 p.m. Sunday.