AVON PARK - The Heartland All-Stars battled valiantly but were eliminated early Wednesday morning by East Polk by a score of 16-10 from the Dixie Pre-Majors (ages 17 under) State Tournament at Charles R. Head Field.
The game lasted over three and a half hours, featured 26 runs, 28 hits, and a grand slam.
"It's a tough loss," said Heartland Coach Whit Cornell. "We gave them to many extra outs, we did not make the routine plays at times. We are a middle-sized school with a great tradition, we picked up three guys coming off a great year at Lake Placid to play with us. So you got two small schools combined playing against 5A, 6A and 7A schools."
Heartland took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Alfred Brown led off the game with a walk and later scored on a single by Alex Gomez.
East Polk scored once in the top of the second and twice in the third to take a 3-1 lead as Heartland starting pitcher Heath Harris struggled on the mound.
Heartland fired back in the bottom of the third as Luis Martinez led off with a single and scored on a double by Gomez into the left-center gap.
Gomez tied the game when he crossed the plate on a fielder's choice by Laine Daum and Daum put Heartland back on top when he scored on a throwing error by East Polk's shortstop for a 4-3 lead.
Harris continued to struggle as he gave up two lead off singles in the fourth inning and then committed a throwing error to first that allowed the two runners to score as East Polk retook the lead 5-4.
Heartland made a pitching change and was able to get out of the inning trailing East Polk 6-4 after the fourth inning.
A competitive game turned quickly into a one-sided affair in the fifth inning as East Polk went on an offensive onslaught with two outs as they banged out six hits, two of which were doubles, as everything that came off the bat found a hole and scored five runs to take an 11-4 lead.
Heartland attempted to come back in the bottom of the fifth as they loaded the bases with no outs. They mustered only one run as the next two batters struck out before Trey Frazier hit a single into left field to drive in Daniel Simons as Heartland left the fifth inning trailing East Polk 11-5.
East Polk went into the sixth inning and continued where they left off in the fifth as four base hits tallied up three more runs before Heartland could record an out and take a 14-5 lead.
As life seemed to dissipate from the Heartland squad with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Gomez reached base with his third hit of the game. Simons reached on an error and a walk to Daum loaded the bases.
JC Cobb came in to pinch hit and singled into left field to bring Gomez as Heartland trailed 14-6.
Jacob Cram came in as a pinch hitter. Though the bases were loaded, it was fairly quiet as inevitability of the game seemed to taken hold of the Heartland squad and fans.
On one swing of the bat by Cram, not known as a power hitter, changed that as the ball lifted high in the air over the left-field fence for a grand slam to make it 14-10.
East Polk posted two more runs in the seventh inning for the 16-10 final.
"A lot of times you can't expect everyone to have the same class that you have here in Highlands County," said Cornell speaking specifically in reference about East Polk. "No matter who we play and how they carry themselves, we will carry ourselves the proper way. I felt our team handled themselves with what was going on and not getting caught up in a lot of bush league drama."