LAKELAND - There's an old adage that says an elephant never forgets, but maybe that should extend to Hardee as well.
The team avenged a 10-run loss to Sebring with a 16-2 shellacking on Wednesday night at Aldine Combee Park, eliminating the boys in blue from the Dixie Ozone (ages 11 to 12) State Tournament.
"It was just one of those days," Sebring coach Anthony Gaines said. "When you play baseball, it's gonna' happen. But it's all good - they did the same thing to us as we did to them."
The game got off to an ominous start. With arguably Sebring's best pitcher in Dayvon Terry taking the mound, Hardee put up two quick runs in the top of the first inning.
After Matt Tyson reached on a single, outfielders Danny Cardoso and Andrew Morris collided, allowing Isaac Moreno's blooper to drop in and score Tyson. Drew McGuckin scored Moreno with a single before Terry struck out Miguel Ruie to end the inning.
Sebring went quickly in its first at-bat, as Hardee's Drew McGuckin retired the side without a ball getting out of the infield.
And in the top of the second, Hardee's offense poured on seven more runs to take a surprising 9-0 lead.
Terry struck out Dustin Willis to start the inning, but allowed a walk and a bunt single to put runners on first and second.
A wild pitch allowed Kaleb Floyd scamper home from second and an RBI double from Bo Villarreal scored Cody Helms to make it 4-0. After Tony Webb drew a walk, Sammy DeLattore laid down another bunt, this time for a run, and reached first base safely after a collision with Sebring's Luis Perez resulted in the ball bouncing into the outfield.
Adrian DeLeon reached on an error by Sebring's second baseman, and another run scored to give Hardee a 6-0 lead.
Tyson earned his second hit with an RBI single and advanced all the way to third base on an errant throw from the outfield. McGuckin followed that by knocking in two more runs on right fielder Andrew Smith's error.
Now up 9-0 with only one out, Hardee was looking to do more damage. But Smith made up for his error, catching a pop-fly and doubling-up McGuckin at second base for a double play to get Sebring out of the inning.
In the bottom of the second inning, Sebring's offense finally woke up. George Martinez led off with a single, Morris reached on a walk, and Jacob Regino scored them both with a double. But a called strike three and two ground outs ended Sebring's chances to trim its deficit.
Sebring appeared rejuvinated in the top of the third, making an emphatic defensive stand to keep Hardee off the scoreboard. A pitching change from Terry to Perez seemed to help, as he tossed a scoreless inning with only four pitches.
But McGuckin returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, retiring the side with back-to-back strikeouts of Hunter Vanderpool and Blayne Huter and forced Desmond Gaines into a soft grounder to first base for the third out.
The magic from Perez's third inning gem had faded by the time the fourth rolled around, and he issued two straight walks to start the inning.
DeLeon knocked in a run with an RBI single and Tyson followed with his second RBI of the game to make it 11-2. After McGuckin's sacrifice fly scored DeLeon, a wild pitch from Perez allowed Tyson to race home for another run.
Up 13-2, Gaines decided to make his second pitching change, bringing in Regino for Perez.
Zack Deuberry was the first to face Regino, hitting a line drive to second base, which bounced off the hands of the umpire, scoring a run and allowing the baserunners to advance. Sebring appealed the call but it was allowed to stand.
An error on a pick-off attempt allowed another run to score and Webb brought in two more with a single to make it 16-2. Regino managed to strike out Willis and DeLatorre to end the inning.
Hardee made a pitching change in the bottom of the fourth, but it had little effect on Sebring's hitters. Carson Angell and Josh Rivera struck out before Terry singled, but a called strike three to Vanderpool ended the game because of the mercy rules.
"We put a lot of work into this season," Gaines said. "We won districts, made state, and reached the final four. There's nothing to be ashamed of."