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Miracle fall to Fire Frogs

Larnach continues torrid pace at the plate

June 6, 2019
By CJ HADDAD (cjhaddad@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The Fort Myers Miracle were unable to secure a victory despite a comeback effort that fell short in Wednesday's matinee game against the Florida Fire Frogs, as they dropped the contest 6-4 at Hammond Stadium.

A three-run seventh inning from the Miracle (33-25) knotted the game 4-4, but the Fire Frogs (25-34) responded with two of their own in the eighth. The Miracle loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but could not push across a run.

Miracle starter Tyler Watson pitched well, at one point retiring nine Florida batters in a row, but was roughed up to start the sixth, allowing three runs to score via a leadoff triple, walk and two-RBI double. Hector Lujan came in for relief and allowed one inherited runner to score. Lujan would take the loss as he allowed three more runs to come across in his two innings of work.

Article Photos

MICHAEL PISTELLA / mpistella@breezenewspapers.com

Fort Myers Miracle DH Trevor Larnach (9) was 3 for 3 with two RBIs during Wednesday’s game against the Florida Fire Frogs. The Miracle are home though Sunday. To view more photos from the game, see the Cape Coral Breeze Facebook page.

"It was tough. Some stuff didn't go our way." said Fort Myers manager Toby Gardenhire. "We hit some balls really hard to the wall and in the gaps and they ran them down. Just one of those days. Both teams were battling. The ball was flying out there pretty good. We just came out on the wrong end of it. We've had our ups and downs throughout the first half, so, we'll be alright."

The Miracle stuck first in the bottom of the fifth when the 2018 20th overall pick, Trevor Larnach, who was named Florida State League Player of the Month prior to the game, lined an RBI double down the left field line to score Lewin Diaz.

Larnach reached base in all five of his at bats, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, two walks and two RBI. The Oregon State product boasts a .312 batting average with five homers, 33 RBI and 26 walks in 54 games to start his professional career.

The accolades don't get to Larnach, who was quick to point out that teammate Diaz, who just set the Miracle record for most homers in the month of May in club history with 10, should have received the FSL honor Larnach did.

"Well, one, I shouldn't have been FSL Player of the Month, that should have been Lewin Diaz, so, I should definitely just address that. Hitting behind him and watching what he's doing -- it's really inspiring. I'm glad he's on my team."

So, what's working for the player who helped lead his alma mater to the 2018 College World Series title?

"Sticking with the process and sticking with the approach," Larnach said of his productivity at the dish thus far. "For me, no matter if there's someone on base or not, it's just getting a good pitch to hit and putting the barrel on it. When you do that, everything should take care of itself. When it doesn't, then that's just baseball."

The 22-year-old hit a modest -- and league-leading .371 in the month of May with 36 hits including 10 doubles, four homers, 19 RBI, a .456 on-base percentage and 1.075 OPS. He also recorded 11 multi-hit games and hit safely in 18 of his 26 games played.

"Trevor's been great. He has professional at bats all the time. He's been pretty impressive. He's got a really good approach. He just keeps trying to improve and make himself better so he can continue on to the next level and be good up in the big leagues, too. He's been very impressive the way he goes about his routine and makes adjustments to pitchers and things that are getting him out," said Gardenhire.

Larnach said his goals for the remainder of the season are to keep doing what he's doing -- and that's driving in runs. He said he wants to continue to utilize the whole field at the plate and be able to adjust to each team's game plan against the lefty, as well as improve on his outfield defense.

The biggest change for him coming out of college has been acclimating to the day-to-day grind of professional baseball, though it seems as if he's handling it just fine.

"Every day. That's what's different. That's the main thing. You're facing pitching that's really good every single day. Especially in the Florida State League. Just taking care of yourself every single day. Coming to the field with the right mindset -- that's a big one, too. And just sticking with your process -- not getting too frustrated. Just kind of embracing the failure because you've just got to keep in mind that without the failure, the success wouldn't be good and wouldn't feel good," said Larnach.

The Fire Frogs answered the Miracle's run with three of their own off of Watson in the aforementioned sixth, but Gardenhire is encouraged with the 6-foot-6 lefty's stuff. Despite his size, Watson is not a hard-thrower, but rather mixes his pitches well, combined with good action and solid location.

"He's been really good. He's been confident lately," Gardenhire said. "He's got a little cutter he runs in on people's hands. His change-up's been going really good. He's got a pretty good plan of attack for what he's doing right now, and that's something that he's been working on. He's given us a chance every time he's gone out."

The 21-year-old has a 1-4 record with a 4.34 ERA coming out of Wednesday's effort and hasn't surrendered more than three runs in his last four starts, all no decisions.

The Fire Frogs tacked on one more in the top of the seventh to pull ahead 4-1 until the heart of the order got things going for the Miracle.

A leadoff error allowed shortstop and birthday boy Royce Lewis to reach base. Larnach would hit his second RBI double of the game that was followed up by a home run to left center field from Jose Miranda to pull Fort Myers even.

Lujan, who has been spotless all season, was roughed up for six hits and three earned runs over two innings of work and took the loss. He even failed to cover first base on an infield single to first baseman Diaz. He still owns an impressive 2.21 ERA on the year.

The Miracle would get the first two on in the bottom of the ninth before Miranda grounded into a double play. Two more Miracle hitters would reach via walk to load the bases, but center fielder Aaron Whitefield would strike out swinging to end the game.

The 2017 No. 1 overall pick and now 20-year-old Lewis made a sensational play up the middle to end the third inning on a ground ball headed to center field. Lewis ranged deep into the hole and fully laid-out, snaring the ball in the web of his glove, got up quickly and fired a strike to first for the out.

"He's improved a ton out there at shortstop the last few years," said Gardenhire. "He's been able to do some really impressive things out there. He's got a ton of talent and sometimes you just kind of shake your head when he makes some of those plays. It's pretty fun to watch."

"It is kind of crazy," Gardenhire also said of Lewis turning just 20 years old. "He's got all the tools in the world. The biggest thing for him, I think, is he just needs to keep trying to get a little bit better every day. He needs to just be patient. If he tries to think too hard about, 'Oh I have to be this or I have to be that,' then he's going to struggle. He's a kid, too. He's still learning. If he does that, he'll be in the big leagues some day and he'll be just fine."

The Miracle closed out their series with Florida on Thursday and start a three-game home set with Jupiter this weekend. Fort Myers is currently in second place in the FSL South, just a half-game back of Bradenton.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

 
 
 

 

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