In a game that was delayed not once, but twice by rain, Sebring made the long wait worthwhile for its dedicated fans by scoring in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a 4-3 win over DeSoto on Friday night at Firemen's Memorial Field.
The hard-earned victory improved the Blue Streaks to 4-3 on the season.
"It's always good to win the first home game of the season," said Sebring baseball coach Buck Rapp. "It wasn't perfect and there are some things we need to work on, but I'm proud of the kids for hanging in there and finding a way to win."
DeSoto struck in the top of the first inning as Garrett Anderson led off with an infield single, stole second base, advanced to third on a ground out and alertly stole home to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
Sebring answered in the bottom of the inning as Wyatt Johnson reached base on an infield error and Landon Willey came on to pinch run.
Cullen Lovett roped a single off Anderson to center field to put runners at first and third base and Willey scored on a two-out infield error by the Bulldogs to tie the game.
DeSoto went back to work in the top of the second inning against Blue Streak right-hander Jordan Baker as Caleb Sheffler was hit by a pitch and advanced to third base when a pick-off throw to first got away.
Rahelio Santoyo lined a single to center field to plate Sheffler for a 2-1 lead.
The Bulldogs were retired in the top of the third inning before the rain began to fall and a 20-minute delay ensued.
The delay didn't hurt the Blue Streaks, as Johnson ripped a one-out single and Dane Maddox followed with an RBI double. An infield error allowed another run to score to put Sebring on top by a score of 3-2.
DeSoto tallied a run in the top of the fourth inning when Sheffler singled, was sacrificed to second base, advanced to third on a fielder's choice and raced home on a passed ball to tie the game at 3.
Baker, who allowed four hits to go with seven strikeouts, got stronger as the game progressed but was pulled after five innings when the rain started to fall in earnest for the second time.
"Jordan threw much better and had good command from the get-go," Rapp said. "He established his fastball, was aggressive and went after the hitters."
After a 40-minute delay, the game resumed and Sebring threatened in the bottom of the fifth inning, but DeSoto reliever Donovan Day was able to wiggle out of a jam unscathed.
Matt Portis came on in relief of Baker and did an excellent job of shutting down the Bulldogs' attack. The Blue Streak right-hander hurled two scoreless innings with four strikeouts and picked up the win when Sebring scored in its last at-bat.
"Matt did a great job of shutting the door on DeSoto," Rapp said. "He came back after the second delay and set the tone to give us a chance to win the game."
Sebring found a way to win in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Maddox drew a leadoff walk off of the right-handed Day and the fleet-footed Willey came on as a pinch runner.
Willey advanced to second and third base on consecutive passed balls to put the winning run 90 feet from home with no outs.
Day bore down to strike out the next hitter, but the Bulldog defense made a costly mistake when the shortstop couldn't catch Lovett's towering pop-up in short left field and Willey raced home with the winning run.
"We're on a journey this season and the kids are gaining experience and learning with each game," Rapp said. "We fought threw some adversity early in the season and we'll probably face some more."
Sebring is back on the diamond with a road game at Bartow on Tuesday. The Blue Streaks host Hardee Thursday and wrap up a difficult week with an away game at Lake Wales on Friday.
"That's three tough teams and Bartow and Lake Wales have some kids that can throw the ball," Rapp said. "Playing against good teams is to our advantage and we're going to keep working hard and hopefully good things will happen."