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Daytona secures series victory with Houdini act in the ninth

BRADENTON, Fla—Connor Burns stroked a go-ahead two-run single in the eighth while throwing out two attempted base-stealers and Trey Faltine threw out two additional runners on the bases—including the tying run at the plate in the ninth—as the Daytona Tortugas secured a series victory with a 4-3 nailbiter over the Bradenton Marauders on Saturday night at LECOM Park.

Daytona (8-6) secured their first three-game winning streak of the season with the win, as they now have won four of five over Bradenton (2-12) to begin the series.

For the first time in the series, Bradenton jumped out in front. In the bottom of the first, the Marauders took advantage of two walks and a hit batter from Daytona starter Ben Brutti to load the bases with no outs. A dribbler in front of the plate and a balk would then plate a pair of runs on a groundout and a balk to take a 2-0 lead.

Brutti was able to finish the first and rebounded with a pair of scoreless innings. He allowed three hits, but two fine defensive plays took away runners, with Burns throwing out a runner stealing and Faltine cutting down his first runner of the night, nabbing Omar Alfonzo at third trying to advance first to third on a single to end the inning.

On the other side, Bradenton starter Michael Kennedy was unhittable early on, striking out seven of the first ten batters and not allowing a hit until there was one out in the fourth. That hit was a double down the left field in front of Dominic Pitelli, who ripped a single up the middle to score Cabrera, splitting the lead in half in the fourth.

Dylan Simmons came on for the bottom of the fourth and cut through the Bradenton order, going six-up and six-down with two strikeouts. Kennedy, meanwhile, threw a 1-2-3 fifth to finish his night with 5.0 innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts.

Kennedy departed with a one-run lead for Hunter Furtado in the sixth. With one out, Faltine drew a walk and moved to second on a single from Carlos Sanchez. Cabrera followed with a chopper to short that resulted in an out at second, but the return throw was low and not handled cleanly at first, allowing Faltine to motor home from second on the play to tie the game at 2-2.

Juan Martinez entered the game in the bottom of the sixth and wobbled early, walking two. However, Burns threw out his second baserunner of the game to help Martinez through the frame.

Daytona had a chance to draw ahead in the seventh as singles from Burns and Esmith Pineda led off the inning with singles. However, Furtado retired the next two before Peyton Stumbo entered and picked up a strikeout to end the inning.

In the eighth, though, the Tortugas broke through. With one out, Sanchez walked and Cabrera singled through the right side. On the hit, an error in right moved both men into scoring position with one out. Following  a strikeout, Burns stepped in and looped a 2-2- pitch into center field, scoring both runners to put Daytona ahead 4-2.

Martinez settled in as he retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth, entering the ninth having retired seven straight. However, back-to-back walks opened the night before Shalin Polanco bounced a ground-rule double over the wall in left-center to close the gap to 4-3, putting the tying and winning runs in scoring position with no outs.

Martinez was then lifted for Simon Miller and on a 3-2 pitch, Garret Forester lined a base hit to center. However, Faltine was playing shallow and took advantage of a bad break from third to throw out Esmerlyn Valdez at the plate. Javier Rivas followed by attempting a squeeze bunt, but laid down a poor bunt near the plate that did not allow Polanco to come to third. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, a bouncer to third saw Cabrera force out Forrester at third to end the game as Daytona improbably hung on for a 4-3 victory.

The Tortugas will finish the series against the Bradenton Marauders from LECOM Park in Bradenton on Sunday afternoon. Daytona will throw LHP Nick Sando (1-0, 3.86) while Bradenton will counter with RHP Khristian Curtis (0-1, 7.50). First pitch tomorrow night is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. with pregame coverage on the Tortugas Radio network with Brennan Mense beginning at 6:15 p.m.

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