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Cougars Rally in Ninth Inning, Fall One Run Short

Clearwater hosted Warner University on a beautiful Tuesday evening at Frank Tack Park. Warner broke out for four runs in the top of the second inning and added one more in the eighth. The Cougars had a chance to tie the game in the bottom half of the ninth with the tying run ninety feet away, but fell just short.

Sophomore Brandon Gonzalez (0-3) got the nod for Clearwater and settled in after the Royals plated four runs in the top of the second inning. Warner's catcher Logan Hunter and designated hitter Kevin Gregg hit back to back solo home runs to lead off the frame. Then, with one out, second baseman Harvey Perez singled and was followed by shortstop Jeff Stabe who also singled and moved Perez to third. Perez made it home on a passed ball and eventually Stabe would score the same way, extending the Royals lead to 4-0.

After that inning, Gonzalez kept the Royals offense in check retiring the next fifteen of eighteen hitters he faced, including four of those on strikes during that span. Gonzalez's line finished with seven innings pitched, seven hits, four earned runs, three walks, and seven strikeouts.

Clearwater had multiple opportunities throughout the game to push runs across the plate, but couldn't find a way to score with runners in scoring position. Clearwater's biggest threat without scoring a run came in the bottom of the seventh as the Royals relief pitcher CJ Gonzalez issued three freebies with one out, loading the bases. Warner went to the bullpen once more, which proved to be the right call, as Joey Hall retired the next two Cougars hitters on strikes.

In the bottom of the ninth, senior Joel Felten reached on a lead off walk, followed by a one out single from freshman Austin Yeoman, putting runners at first and second. After a sharp line out to left field from pinch hitter, freshman Michael Calabrese, the Cougars kept alive with two outs as freshman Gabe Gali and senior David Edwards were both walked. Edwards walk forced in Felten, making it 5-1, and the bases still loaded. Freshman Nathan Stanley reached on a dropped third strike that skipped away from the catcher far enough to advance all the runners, closing the gap to 5-2. Then with runners in motion on a full count and two outs, sophomore Emmanuel Chmielewski hit a sharp ground ball through the middle that scored both Yeoman and Gali, cutting the Royals lead to 5-4. With the tying run ninety feet away and the winning run at first base, sophomore Jake Reidy flied out to deep right, sealing the win for Warner.

CJ Gonzalez picked up the win for Warner. Senior Kyle Baitz threw two innings in relief for the Cougars, allowing one hit and one earned run, while striking out two.

Felten reached base in all four plate appearances, finishing 1-2 with two walks and reaching on a fielder's choice. Edwards was walked three times, scored a run, and swiped two bags in the lead off spot. Chmielewski completed his day 2-5 with a pair of RBI's.

The 5-4 loss drops Clearwater's record to 2-4 and Warner improves to 5-3 overall. The Cougars will be on the road this weekend at Ave Maria University for a three game series beginning Friday afternoon at Bowie's Ballpark. The first pitch of the weekend is scheduled for 2:30pm. Saturday's doubleheader will begin at 11:00am.

NOTES: Gonzalez had the longest outing of his career after completing seven innings of work, topping his previous high at Flagler College on February 9, 2013 when he hurled six innings in a 3-2 loss...Cougars have snagged sixteen bases through the first six games...Chmielewski is hitting .381 (8-21) through the first six games...three of the past four contests with Warner University have been decided by one run...Clearwater stranded nine base runners.