AVON PARK - The Heartland All-Stars cruised to an 8-0 win over the Hendry County All-Stars in a rain-shortened game in Sunday's opening round of the Dixie Majors (ages 19 under) State Tournament at Charles R. Head Field.
"We were excited," said Heartland Coach Chad Wright. "We had a bye yesterday and we were ready to get on the field and defend or championship."
Bright sunshine and humidity surrounded Avon Park's Head Field early Sunday morning.
Rain began to fall in earnest and the Hendry County starting pitcher had difficulty adjusting to the changing climate as he hit the first three Heartland batters he faced to load the bases.
That was followed by back-to-back doubles by Lane Crosson and Josh Baber. Crosson laced a single down the first-base line for a double, driving in the first two runs of the game.
A passed ball plated another run before Baker crushed the ball in the left-center field gap to the wall to drive in Crosson.
Baber scored on a delayed double steal. Josh Gomez, who reached base by being the fourth person hit in the inning, attempted to steal second base. When Hendry made the throw to second to tag out Gomez, Baker headed home to give Heartland a 5-0 lead.
Heartland scored two more runs in the third to take a 7-0 lead as dark clouds began to roll up behind the home dugout as claps of thunder could be heard in the distance.
Baber reached on a walk and was promptly replaced by pinch runner Colton Brock. Brock stole second and reached third on a ground ball to the shortstop. He scored the first run of the inning on a passed ball.
Trey Marley scored the second run. After reaching base on a walk, he advanced to second on a wild pitch. The ball got past the third baseman when he attempted to steal third base, allowing him to score.
Heartland added another run in the fourth inning as Crosson collected his third run batted in on a sacrifice fly to center field that drove in Brandon Rhea to give Heartland an 8-0 lead.
During the fourth inning, charcoal colored clouds now covered Head Field as the sounds of thunder boomed directly overhead.
Despite the weather, Heartland starting pitcher, Nate Green, did not seem to allow the elements to affect him on the mound like it seemed to bother the Hendry pitcher.
Green pitched four solid innings while only giving up two hits and striking out nine batters in the shutout performance.
"I congratulate our pitcher," said Wright, "He did what we asked him to do and threw strikes."
As Hendry began their warm-ups to start the fifth inning, a bolt of lightning shot through the sky that quickly brought a halt to the game. Moments later followed a torrential downpour that lasted over two hours.
Dixie tournament officials met with Wright and the Hendry County coach about options. Basically Hendry County had the choice to wait until the weather subsided and the field was ready to resume the game or concede the game and move forward to their next game when play resumed.
Hendry decided to concede the game and move forward with the tournament, allowing the players to go home.
"Our team has worked hard and that was a good win for us to get the ball rolling," said Wright. "We'll come in tomorrow ready to go, we are going to keep doing what we do."
Heartland played Hernando County, which won its opening game 3-0 over Spring Hill, on Monday night.
Results from the game were not available at press time.