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Mussels win series, but drop finale Sunday against Blue Jays

By Staff | May 13, 2024

Lares fans 11 in 4-3 loss to Dunedin

FORT MYERS – Cesar Lares struck out 11 Dunedin Blue Jays, but the Mighty Mussels fell 4-3 in the series finale Sunday at Hammond Stadium.

The reigning FSL Pitch of the Week, Lares set a new career high in strikeouts across five innings of work, the most in an outing for a Twins minor leaguer this year. Lares had a combined whiff rate of 57% on his slider and curveball.

After Lares struck out the first two batters of the game, Dunedin (14-19) put together a two-out rally against the southpaw. A four-pitch walk to Yoangel Aponte set the table for Arjun Nimmala, who crushed a homer to left-center to put the Blue Jays ahead 2-0. Third baseman Manuel Beltre followed with a solo blast to left to extend the lead to three.

Lefty Ross Dunn was solid in his return to the mound, spinning two shutout frames as the first man out of the Mussels’ bullpen.

Still trailing 3-0 in the seventh, Fort Myers (13-20) was finally able to crack through against Dunedin reliever Eliander Alcalde. Isaac Pena led off the frame with a hustle double to shallow right field. Gregory Duran, who was activated off the IL prior to the game, shot an opposite field single to left to put men on first and third. Second baseman Payton Eeles followed Duran with a double down the right field line to make it a 3-1 game with runners at second and third. Rayne Doncon drew a walk to load the bases as the first four Mussels all reached in the inning.

Jose Rodriguez then cut the deficit to one as he drove in Duran on a ground out to second. Poncho Ruiz followed with a sacrifice fly to shallow center as Eeles dashed home and avoided the tag from Edward Duran to tie the game.

The Blue Jays manufactured the go ahead run in the ninth with some small ball against Xander Hamilton (3-4). Bryce Arnold led off the inning with a single and advanced all the way to third with some heads up base running on a sacrifice bunt. He then scored on a sacrifice fly from Tucker Toman, putting Dunedin in front 4-3.

Fort Myers put the tying run aboard in the bottom of the ninth with two outs on a single from Doncon, but the rally fell short as Rodriguez struck out to end the game.

The Mussels return to action on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for the start of a 12-game road trip as the team opens its series in Lakeland against the Flying Tigers. The Mussels return to action on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. for the start of a 12-game road trip as the team opens its series in Lakeland against the Flying Tigers. The Mussels play six in Lakeland before traveling to Daytona for a six-game series starting May 21. The Fort Myers club returns home May 28 for a series against Bradenton.

Mussels secure series win with dominant 12-2 victory over Blue Jays

FORT MYERS – The Mighty Mussels secured their first series win in a six-game set this season, defeating the Dundedin Blue Jays 12-2 Saturday night at Hammond Stadium.

All nine starters reached base and Fort Myers (13-19) hitters showed excellent patience at the plate, working 13 full counts and drawing a season high 11 walks.

The Mussels jumped ahead 1-0 in the first inning after Byron Chourio took third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error from Dunedin (13-19) catcher Edward Duran.

The Blue Jays tied the game 1-1 in the third on a leadoff home run from first baseman Cristian Feliz.

Leading off the fourth, Rafael Cruz deposited a double down the right field line. Second baseman Isaac Pena followed with an RBI single to put the Mussels ahead for good. Pena later scored on a sacrifice fly from Chourio, making it 3-1 Fort Myers.

The Mussels’ offense exploded in the fifth as Fort Myers sent 10 men to the plate and scored five times on just two hits. Six straight reached to start the frame, and Rayne Doncon delivered the exclamation point with an RBI single to left field to extend the lead 8-1.

Catcher Matthew Clayton reached in each of his first four plate appearances. Leading off the seventh, he worked a walk and immediately scored on a triple from Payton Eeles into the right field corner. Eeles then scored on a Dunedin error to make it 10-1.

Dunedin tacked on an unearned run in the eight to make it 10-2.

The Mussels scored their final two runs in the eighth as Brandon Winokur and Maddux Houghton both crossed home on an error from Feliz, making it 12-2.

Jack Noble (1-0) earned the win after tossing 2.2 innings of relief, allowing one unearned run and striking out one batter.

Mussels’ pitching did not walk a batter on the night while picking up six strikeouts. Jeremy Lee retired all six batters he faced in his return from the injured list and Ben Ethridge allowed just one run across three innings of relief. Samuel Perez recorded the final four outs and picked up a pair of strikeouts.

Mussels walk off against Blue Jays for third time in four games

FORT MYERS – Maddux Houghton crushed a double at 103.9 mph to the center field fence and Omari Daniel sprinted home as the Mighty Mussels walked off the Blue Jays for the third time in four games in front of a season high 4,483 fans Friday at Hammond Stadium.

After Dunedin (13-18) tied the game 3-3 in the top of the ninth, Poncho Ruiz led off the bottom of the inning with a walk. Daniel was called upon to pinch run at first and later stole second to advance to scoring position. Houghton, who came on as a defensive replacement in the eighth, turned on a sinker for Kai Peterson to finish off the fourth walk-off win of the season and third of the week for the Mussels (12-19).

Mussels starter Ty Langenburg (0-3) was outstanding in his first start of May, going six shutout innings while striking out seven and allowing just two hits. He threw 58 of his 86 pitches for strikes.

After four scoreless innings to start the game, the Mussels opened the scoring in the fifth. Brandon Winokur led off the frame with a two-strike opposite field single. With two outs, Isaac Pena worked a walk to put two aboard. Playing against his former team, Angel Del Rosario gave the Mussels the lead with a two-run single through the left side of the infield.

The Mussels added another run in the sixth. Payton Eeles led off the sixth with a single through the right side. Two batters later, Rayne Doncon pulled a single to left to put Fort Myers ahead 3-0.

Dunedin finally got on the board in the eighth. Victor Arias connected on an RBI triple to right and later scored on an error to make it a 3-2 game.

With a one run lead in the ninth, Julio Bonilla walked the bases loaded on 12 pitches. Xander Hamilton (3-3) then entered the game and induced a double play and a comebacker to retire the side, holding the Blue Jays to just one run and keeping the game tied 3-3.