Sebring’s Garrett DeRoss had only thrown 12 innings during the regular season, but with the Blue Streaks’ season on the line, coach Buck Rapp didn’t hesitate to send his senior right-hander to the mound.
DeRoss responded with a four-hit shutout, as Sebring defeated Lakeland Kathleen 5-0 in the in the semifinals of the Class 6A-District 9 tournament on Tuesday at Lake Gibson High School.
“We decided as a coaching staff he’s our hottest guy, he’s our best guy and we’re going to ride him,” Rapp said. “He threw a four-hit shutout. That’s hard to do.”
DeRoss didn’t allow an earned run during the season and thanks to some defensive help on Tuesday, exited the game with the streak still intact.
“Basically, here’s a guy who had 12 innings and a 0.00 ERA,” Rapp said. “He still has a 0.00 ERA and he’s got 19 innings now.”
Defense has been the Blue Streaks’ Achilles Heel at times during the season, but the boys in blue flashed some leather, with Ty Little and Dane Maddox making some strong defensive plays and the rest of the team making the plays when they needed to.
“They played great defense behind him,” Rapp said. “He’s got a sinkerball pitch and his fastball sinks, so they’re going to hit groundballs.”
The Blue Streaks got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second inning, as Maddox singled and was forced at second on DeRoss’ fielder’s choice.
Jimmy Peck singled and courtesy runner Brendan Doty scored on an error. A long RBI double by Little made it 2-0. Jordan Austin singled and Brad Doty was hit by a pitch, but Sebring left the bases loaded.
The Blue Streaks made it 3-0 in the fourth inning, as Peck walked and Little reached on an error. Austin’s single loaded the bases and Peck scored on a wild pitch, as the other runners advanced 90 feet. Brad Doty reached to load the bases, but a pair of strikeouts ended the winning with just the one run scoring.
Maddox and Peck scored in the bottom of the fifth — with Matt Portis delivering an RBI single — and the Blue Streaks took a 5-0 lead to the sixth.
The Red Devils put two runners on base in the top of the seventh, but DeRoss was able to shut the door and preserve the shutout.
“I was in my groove,” DeRoss said. “My fastball and change-up were working. I was just throwing strikes.”
DeRoss said he found out last week he would get the start and spent time running to get in shape, which helped him go the distance.
“I was excited,” he said. “I look forward to pitching a lot.”
Rapp said he was hoping for five innings out of DeRoss.
“I’m proud of him, he’s been great the whole season,” Rapp said. “He’s a bulldog and he’ll have to go again for us next week.”
The Blue Streaks will throw Jordan Baker in tonight’s championship game with Winter Haven and see what transpires.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Rapp said. “Jordan has the stuff to do it.”
With Tuesday’s victory, the Blue Streaks guaranteed themselves of advancing to the state tournament.
“I’m proud of this group of kids,” Rapp said. “We’ve had some ups and downs this season but we’re still playing. That’s all you want is to play as long as you can because one day the game outgrows us all and we’re all done playing sooner or later.”
Tonight’s game begins at 7 p.m. at Lake Gibson High School in Lakeland.