SEBRING — Twice in the regular season, Sweet Frog took on Sebring Tractor Service. And both times, they limped off the field in defeat.
But Monday night at the Max Long Sports Complex, Sweet Frog got a victory when it needed it most, as the squad edged Sebring Tractor Service 4-2 in the Dixie Boys (ages 13-14) City League Tournament Championship.
“Playing these guys has always been a battle,” said Sweet Frog coach Izzy Gomez. “We knew going into the championship it was going to be a battle. But I told my kids to stay calm and we can do our stuff. And they did — I’m very proud of them.”
Getting to the title game wasn’t easy. Sweet Frog toppled Got Milk? 11-5 in Monday’s early game, and had little time to rest before battling Sebring Tractor Service in the nightcap.
“To come over here and perform how they did, it was impressive,” Gomez said. “My boys were a little bit tired. But I told them to stay focused and we could do this — and they did.”
Sweet Frog seemed prime to explode in the top of the first inning, when it loaded the bases with no outs. But Sebring Tractor Service’s Logan Gregis made a spectacular diving catch on Gabe Gomez’s smash to center field. Taking advantage of Sweet Frog’s confusion on the base paths, Gregis launched the ball to the infield where teammate Hunter Martinez was able to tag runner Dalton Whitman for the ultra-rare 8-1-2 double play.
Stealing the momentum, Dayvon Terry put Sebring Tractor Service on the scoreboard first when he plated Eli Fautheree with an RBI single.
After trading zeros in the second, Sweet Frog countered in the third. With the bases loaded, Sebring Tractor Service’s Damian Lusby walked in a run to tie the game. Following a scoreless fourth, Sweet Frog exploded in the fifth.
Whitman led off with a single and Josh Rivera followed with a single. Gomez brought both runners home with a booming triple, and Sweet Frog took a 3-1 lead. Marshall Bond capped the scoring with an RBI ground out.
Sebring Tractor Service threatened once more in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs and a runner on second, Terry launched a pitch deep into the outfield. While only a single, it gave Carson Angell enough time to scamper home and cut the deficit to 4-2.
Both teams cruised through a quiet sixth inning, but Sweet Frog failed to get the always vital insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
But Izzy Gomez wasn’t worried. He had his go-to closer on the mound.
Rivera easily retired the side, fanning one batter while setting up his defense for easy ground balls.
“Josh is mainly the guy I go to shut things down,” Gomez said. “Gabe gave us five good innings, and Josh came in and pitched two great innings. It was perfect.”
The Dixie Boys season officially ended after Monday’s game. Now coaches from all five squads, Lake Placid’s Howard Fertilizer and Bevis Construction, as well as Sebring Tractor Service, Sweet Frog, and Got Milk? will compile a team of all-stars for the 14 and under teams. They’ll represent all-star teams for Lake Placid, Avon Park, and Sebring in the Dixie Boys state tournament which starts play July 19 in Sebring.