Bradenton Marauders blank Tampa Yankees for fourth straight victory

Fortunate bounce leads to shutout, 4th straight win

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 30, 2014 

BRADENTON -- As the ball left Cito Culver's bat and flew toward the wall lining McKechnie Field's warning track, Chad Kuhl ran to back up home plate.

Kuhl, Bradenton's starting pitcher Thursday night, knew speedy centerfielder Jeff Roy wasn't catching up to Culver's hit. And Roy didn't: The ball bounced off the wall and went for a double, putting runners on second and third with one out in the third inning of a scoreless game.

Or did it? It sounded as if the ball may have hit a sponsor's sign above the fence, ruling it a home run. But after a long conference at home plate at the request of Tampa Yankees' manager Al Pedrique, umpires Brennan Miller and Scott Costello stuck with Miller's call.

Kuhl recorded the next two outs, and the Marauders escaped the inning unscathed en route to a 4-0 win in front of 1,115 fans. It was the fourth consecutive victory for Bradenton, now 27-26.

"I think it was a good call by the umpires," Kuhl said.

Roy, who along with left fielder Raul Fortunato had the best view, agreed.

"It hit the top part of the cushion, then it hit the wall," he said. "Then Fort grabbed it and threw it in. ... Coaches say whenever a ball hits and stays in the park, just keep playing it. I think that really helped."

The conference between the umpires lasted about two minutes before Miller signaled that the ball indeed had stayed in the park before explaining the call to Pedrique, who like most minor-league managers, doubles as his team's third-base coach.

"In that situation, that could be 2-0 just like that," Kuhl said. "So it was a huge pressure reliever to see him signal 'Safe,' and it was just a double. You still have a chance to work out of it and make some pitches."

The 21-year-old righty did just that, striking out Greg Bird, ranked the New York Yankees' seventh-best prospect by MLB.com, and retiring Dante Bichette Jr. on a grounder. Kuhl went six innings, striking out three, hitting two, walking one and allowing four hits to earn his team-leading fifth win.

"There are a few innings that can really turn the tide in a baseball game," said Kuhl, who lowered his ERA to 4.12 in 59 innings. "So getting out of that was a big swing in momentum, especially for our bats. Putting up a zero, that swings momentum for our pitching, for our defense, for our hitting, for everything."

Jonathan Schwind took care of the hitting, stroking a pair of doubles, including one in the fourth to give Bradenton a 1-0 lead. He also scored a run during the Marauders' three-run sixth inning, which was highlighted by catcher Jin-De Jhang scoring all the way from second on Fortunato's infield hit.

Seven of Schwind's 37 hits have been doubles, and he is hitting .336 in 32 games.

Jhondaniel Medina worked the final three innings to wrap Bradenton's seventh shutout -- only Dunedin (nine) and Lakeland (eight) have more -- and secure his third save.

And it only took a tidy 2 hours, nine minutes to finish after first pitch was delayed 45 minutes by rain.

"I personally like to get in there and get in a tempo," Kuhl said of working fast. "Get the ball and try and find a rhythm. That's just the way I like to pitch…I think it's organizational, but for me, personally, I like it."

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