BRADENTON - Max Kepler's ninth inning grand slam completed a last at-bat comeback for the Fort Myers Miracle in a 5-2 win over the Bradenton Marauders Thursday night. Kepler's blast sealed a series sweep for the Miracle over the Marauders.
In a game that featured a two-hour, 16-minute rain delay, the Miracle and Marauders mustered little offense through most of the evening. Fort Myers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning against Marauders starter Chad Kuhl. With one out, Tyler Grimes reached on a fielding error by third baseman Eric Wood. Grimes then raced to third when a drive off the bat of Bryan Haar glanced off Justin Maffei's glove in right center field. With runners at second and third, Aderling Mejia lifted a fly ball to left field. Justin Howard made the catch, but Grimes raced home to put the Miracle up a run.
Due to the delay, expected Miracle starter D.J. Baxendale was unavailable. Madison Boer made the spot start and tossed three scoreless frames. Todd Van Steensel entered in the fourth and posted a pair of clean innings with four strikeouts.
In the sixth, the Marauders busted through against Miracle reliever Tyler Jones. Adam Frazier led off with a single up the middle and then was sacrificed to second by Walker Gourley. Jones then issued a walk to Jose Osuna. On a 1-1 pitch, Jordan Sterenka tied the game on a broken bat single to center field. Gourley scored, 1-1, and Osuna advanced to third on a controversial call by field umpire Brennen Miller. Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz argued the play at third and was subsequently ejected from the game.
Wood then singled off the glove of Mejia at third base to drive in Osuna and put the Marauders up 2-1.
Still holding a one-run advantage going to the top of the ninth, the Marauders called in Yhonathan Barrios for the save opportunity. Barrios started the frame by walking Niko Goodrum and then surrendered a base hit to Travis Harrison to put runners on the corners. After Dalton Hicks popped up to second, Adam Brett Walker earned a base on balls. With the bases loaded, Barrios' first pitch to Kepler was sent screaming over the wall in right field for a grand slam. Kepler's fifth homer and second grand slam gave the Miracle a 5-2 lead.
The grand slam is the Miracle's eighth this season, a new team record.
In the bottom of the ninth, Nick Burdi got the call and converted his first save opportunity while striking out the side. Burdi allowed one hit.
Miracle reliever D.J. Johnson got the win for the Miracle after fanning five in two innings. Johnson (2-0) tossed the seventh and eighth innings scoreless.
The Miracle are 12-3 against Bradenton in the season series and returns to McKechnie Field on Monday.
Fort Myers (77-52, 36-24) continues a nine-game road trip at Charlotte Sports Park on Friday to begin a three-game series with the Stone Crabs.