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Culpepper shines in 5-1 Mussels’ win over St. Lucie

By Staff | Jun 2, 2023

Mighty Mussels starter C.J. Culpepper tossed five scoreless innings Thursday without allowing a hit as the Mussels surged past the St. Lucie Mets 5-1 at Hammond Stadium.

The five-inning, six-strikeout performance marked the first time Culpepper (2-2) finished a start without interruption since early May after his previous two outings were shortened by inclement weather. He has now only allowed two earned runs over his last 13.1 innings of work dating back to May 12.

With no score in the bottom of the second, Mikey Perez walked and stole second base with one out. The next Mussels (27-20) hitter was Rubel Cespedes, who roped a line drive down the right field line to score the run and give Fort Myers a 1-0 lead.

Two hitters later, Alec Sayre served a soft liner to right to bring home Cespedes and push the Mussels’ lead to two runs.

With the same score in the bottom of the third, Danny De Andrade walked then advanced to the third on a stolen base and passed ball. After a walk to Carlos Aguiar, Rafael Cruz drove a flyball to center to score De Andrade from third and extend the lead to 3-0.

In the top of the sixth, Mets (13-33) centerfielder Jett Williams was hit by a pitch from reliever Jarret Whorff. After Williams stole second and was granted third on a disengagement violation, Jacob Reimer smoked a single to right center to make it a 3-1 game.

Leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Jorel Ortega reached on an infield single to open the frame. Two hitters later, Carlos Aguiar launched a skyscraping homer onto the berm in left to give Fort Myers a 5-1 lead. The longball tied Aguiar with Jared Serna of Tampa for the Florida State League lead in homers at eight.

Juan Mendez was stellar in relief, tossing two scoreless innings while striking out six to seal the game. He has now allowed just one run with 18 strikeouts over his last 11 innings of work.

The clubs will meet at Hammond Stadium for a doubleheader today with Andrew Morris (1-0, 6.97) and Cory Lewis (4-2, 2.79) expected to start for the Mussels. Game one begins at 4:30 p.m. while game two will begin no later than 7:00 p.m. Coverage begins at 4:15 p.m. on the Mighty Mussels Baseball Network.