SEBRING - Blue Streaks baseball coach Jasone DeWitt knows that if he wants his team to be the best, they'll have to beat the best. That's why he assembled one of the tougher schedules Sebring's played in recent years. And Friday night, the Streaks invited their second Tampa opponent this month to Firemen's Field.
Tampa's Berkeley Prep fared better than Tampa Catholic, however, and the Buccaneers did enough damage in the early innings to hold on for a 5-2 victory. The win improved Class 4A Berkeley Prep to 4-5 on the season while Class 5A Sebring dropped to 4-3.
"It's a mental thing," DeWitt said. "The more these young guys continue to put themselves in this position, the better we're gonna' get. We have this schedule for a reason. We don't want to be surprised when we get into postseason play. We want to be able to see the best arms throughout the year so we're prepared."
The Bucs got on the scoreboard early. Sebring's Jonathan Struck got Berkeley Prep's Gordon Stetson to fly out, but Spencer Myers drew a walk and Anthony Pellegrino followed with a single. Dante Bosnic brought in the Bucs first run with a sacrifice fly. A wild pitch from Struck let Pellegrino scamper home and the Streaks were in a two-run hole.
But Sebring's bats responded in the bottom of the first.
Jordan Austin and Cullen Lovett both reached on a walk. Berkeley Prep's Justin Thomas recovered to record the next two outs, but Matthew Portis came to the plate and blasted a two-run triple to tie the score.
Berkeley Prep continued the fireworks in the top of the second. Bobby Albers led off the inning with a single. George Peek moved Albers over to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Nick Kavouklis reached on a walk.
Stetson sent a laser into the infield, but Portis' throw was wide at first base and Stetson was safe, which allowed Albers to come around from second and score.
Down 3-2, Struck gave up an RBI single to Myers before a wild pitch let the Bucs score their third run of the inning and take a 5-2 lead.
Scoring halted after the top of the second, though.
Sebring made plenty of threats in the later innings, twice getting lead-off doubles, but the Streaks never capitalized when they had base runners in scoring position.
In the bottom of the fourth, Sebring had a man on first and second with no outs, but failed to bring any runs across the plate.
But DeWitt isn't worried. He's confident in his team's hitting ability and knows that as the season progresses, they'll learn to bring runners home.
"Our guys work too hard and we're too good of a hitting team," he said. "All we need to is make that slight adjustment. We've got to bring guys home when they're in scoring position If we have a weakness, that's it."
"And there's never a good loss, but I like the way we swung it tonight," DeWitt added.
Sebring begins district play Tuesday when the Streaks host Class 5A-District 11 rival Lemon Bay at 7 p.m.
DeWitt thinks his guys are in the right mind-set for the season's most grueling stretch.
"Every game except the first one, we've been in," DeWitt said. "So we're going to work on our approach Monday, try and get better on the defensive side, and come out hard in practice. We're going to prepare and focus and play a game that's the greatest game in the world and have an awesome time doing it."