The Bradenton Marauders took their first game of the season tonight against the St. Lucie Mets, winning 3-2 in the 11th inning on a walk off hit by pitch by Stefan Welch. The Mets loaded the bases with one out to bring up Welch, who spent the last three years playing for St. Lucie. The first pitch thrown hit Welch in the leg, bringing home Gift Ngoepe from third for the win.
STRONG ALL AROUND PLAY FROM GIFT
Gift Ngoepe had a great game tonight, both on the field and at the plate. The shortstop collected three hits in five at-bats, scoring two of the three Bradenton runs, including the winning run. The first hit was an infield single. A wild throw to first allowed Gift to advance to second base. He was later bunted over by Drew Maggi, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Evan Chambers. The other two hits were identical, with both being line drives over the shortstop for singles.
On the field, Gift flashed the leather, making some great plays. He made a good relay and a strong throw from shallow center field to catch a runner trying to stretch a double in to a triple. He flashed a plus arm on several occasions, beating out some speedy runners on the throw to first. The highlight was a play he made to end the top of the 11th. On a ground ball hit up the middle, Gift ranged to the second base side of the bag, made a diving stop, and followed that up with a strong throw from his knees to barely get the runner.
CAIN STRUGGLES WITH COMMAND
Colton Cain got the start tonight, and struggled with his fastball command. He had good movement on his fastball, throwing it inside to right handed hitters, and showing late arm-side break on the pitch. However, his command was inconsistent, leading to four walks and three hits in 3.2 innings.
“Definitely some velocity in his fastball. We all know that,” Bradenton manager Carlos Garcia said. “But the command, the fastball command today, it wasn’t there. It was in and out, in and out. That’s why he fell behind on the count for the most part of the game.”
Cain did a good job of limiting the damage. He allowed two runs, with only one earned, and at one point stranded runners at second and third base.
“Overall outing was just kind of a grind,” Cain said of his start. “Fastball command not exactly where I wanted it. You’d be up, and then be down in the zone. I never really got to set the tone for the game. I thought our guys did a great job of keeping us in it and battling until the end.”
Cain’s fastball looked good at times, with the pitch sitting around 91-92 MPH, and showing good movement. But the command was the killer, with only 25 strikes in 43 pitches. It also prevented him from attacking the inner-half of the plate, where he was most effective.
“Whenever I’m able to go in there, usually have it down, usually get good results,” Cain said. “Like I said, late in the count for most of the game, so I wasn’t really able to get in there and establish the inner-half.”
OTHER PLAYER NOTES
**Alex Dickerson struggled on defense, specifically with the throw to second. Twice Cain picked a runner off at first, only to have the runner steal second due to a slow relay by Dickerson.
**Mel Rojas Jr. had two hard hit balls tonight. The first was an opposite field double down the left field line as a left handed hitter. The second one was a line drive right at the right fielder as a right handed hitter. Later Rojas struck out swinging, chasing some breaking pitches out of the zone.
**Wes Freeman had two bad at-bats early in the game. He was behind on the fastball, and was chasing breaking pitches out of the zone. In his final at-bat he crushed a line drive directly at the left fielder on a first pitch fastball. Freeman had success last year when he started attacking the fastball.
**Casey Sadler had some good pitches, throwing on a downward plane and down in the zone. He threw two perfect innings with two strikeouts. One of the strikeouts came on two perfect fastballs down in the zone, both getting swings. His other four outs came on the ground.
**Stefan Welch had an interesting night. Other than the walk off hit-by-pitch, the third baseman got his first hit of the season by lining a ball off the field umpire. The ball would have been an easy double play, as it was heading right for the second baseman.
**Drew Maggi was removed from the game, but it was not injury related.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
You can’t help but root for Gift!!
Does Gift have a brace on his right hand? Did he hurt his thumb or something?
He had hamate surgery last year. Still has some soreness.