– The South Florida State College Panthers were riding a smooth road of success while winning seven of their last ten games. That road was closed by the State College of Florida on Wednesday night as the Manatees beat the Panthers 14-3 in seven innings.
The loss dropped the Panthers to 12-29 on the season and 4-10 in the Suncoast Conference standings. South Florida had moved out of the cellar in the conference into fourth place, but lost an opportunity to gain ground on third place Hillsborough.
“Very disappointing night, we have played well the last 10 games,” said South Florida Coach Rick Hitt. “We are really two one-run games and an incredible catch from winning 10 straight. “Being 7-3 in the last ten, I was really anticipating a different night tonight from our guys, maybe I was completely off base but I really thought we would be a little bit better than we were tonight.”
Panther starter Josh Chavis started out well getting the first two batters out, then two walks and an error led to the Manatees first run of the game.
State College of Florida added a second run in the second inning by leading off the inning with two singles and two stolen bases by Dalton Busby and Andrew McNett to put them on second and third with no outs.
Busby would score on a sacrifice fly into deep right field by Chase Sandberg to put the Manatees up 2-0.
Though Chavis was able to get out of the second inning with no further damage, he was unable to record an out in the third as the first three batters he faced loaded the bases on a double, a walk and a single.
The Panthers made a pitching change, bringing in Kevin Schubert, who promptly gave up a single into left field that drove in two runs to increase the Manatees lead to 4-0.
With one out, another walk loaded the bases. That was followed by a ground ball to second base by Sandberg that the Panthers were unable to convert the double play to end the inning and two more runs scored for a 6-0 lead.
State College of Florida concluded its scoring outburst in the third inning on a two-run single by Bryan Voelkl. With the Manatees leading 8-0, the Panthers ended the inning on a groundball double play from short to second to first.
“We did not get off to a good start on the mound,” said Hitt, “We made a few mistakes on defense. They are leading the conference for a reason, they are a talented club, they can swing it, pitch it and they do not make a lot of mistakes. We’ve got to fight right with them and we were not capable of doing that tonight.”
The Panthers tried to fight back in the fourth inning. They were able to hold the Manatees scoreless for the first time in the game and were able to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth.
Josh Townsend would score the first run for South Florida on a ground ball fielder’s choice to the second baseman by Lane Crosson. The Panthers were unable to capitalize any further as they trailed the Manatees 8-1 after four innings.
The Manatees continued their offensive onslaught in the fifth and sixth inning, scoring three runs in both innings, despite the Panthers making two more pitching changes, they now trailed the Manatees 14-2 heading into the seventh inning.
Panther pitcher Trevor Wilson held the Manatees scoreless in the seventh inning, but the Panthers needed three runs for game not to be stopped by the 10-run rule.
Carlos Matamoros started the inning with a single into right center and eventually scored on a two out single by Zach Calvin, but that was all the Panthers could muster as the next batter struck out to end the game with the Manatees winning 14-3.
South Florida then will continue conference play as the host Hillsborough Community College on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the first of a three-game set. Hillsborough sits in third place in the Suncoast Conference standings with a 6-7 record and is 13-19-1 overall.