The Avon Park Red Devils jumped on Mulberry early — grabbing a 9-1 lead after four innings — and coasted to a 9-5 Class 4A-District 10 victory at Charles R. Head Field on Friday night.
The win ended a two-game slide after the Red Devils opened the season with nine consecutive victories.
Although the final score showed Avon Park winning by just four runs, Red Devils skipper Whit Cornell said he was never worried about the outcome.
"We had the game under control the whole time," he said. "Mulberry battled, but we had a game plan of what we were trying to do. We would have liked to have kept putting the runs up, but at the same, time we've got some guys in who needed to get in some work."
The Red Devils were a bit sloppy defensively in the top of the first, which helped the Panthers grab a quick 1-0 lead, but the advantage was short-lived, as Avon Park's Alfred Brown singled, stole second and third base and scored on a wild pitch.
Tyrone Perry walked, Kyle Kelley reached on an error, Stevie Flowers was hit by a pitch and Luis Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk, as the Red Devils led 3-1 after the first inning.
Avon Park tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the second, as Brown reached base and scored on Torri Pringle's RBI single. Perry drove in a run with a ground ball, reached on an error and scored his second run of the game on another error.
Pringle was hit by a pitch leading off the bottom of the inning and Perry made sure it was the Panthers who were the ones hurting by following that with a blast over the right-field fence to make it an 8-1 game.
Avon Park's final run came when Anthony Caruthers singled and courtesy-runner Cody Pearlman scored.
Colton Brock gave the Red Devils a solid four innings on the mound, as he got out of several jams with strikeouts or induced a double-play ball.
"It's tough to come out with your best stuff every day, but Colton had good focus and he gave us a chance to win," Cornell said.
Austin Stadie pitched two innings and allowed one run, with Kenny McGrath throwing the final inning when Mulberry scored three runs.
"Austin did a great job and Kenny needed some work and was able to get it done," Cornell said.
Cornell said he was pleased to see different players coming through with key hits in the game.
"They're all contributing," he said. "It's a good team effort this year. Everybody's staying together and they're having a good time and playing hard. Somebody always steps up. If somebody's having a hard time or not making good decisions, somebody else can step up and play and that's encouraging."
The Red Devils are going to hit the road during spring break for a game in South Carolina and one in Savannah, Ga.
"We're going to get to go and play two good schools," Cornell said. "We're going to get to see some of the historic sights of Savannah, so we'll get a little educational purpose in there too.
"The kids are excited. We took primarily the same group, plus a few others, to Alabama last year and they had a great time and really represented our community well, as far as their behavior."
The Red Devils return to district action March 19, when they visit county rival Lake Placid.