AVON PARK - South Florida State College used a 13-run inning to blow past the University of Tampa's B Team in the opening game of Saturday's doubleheader at Panther Field. SFSC held on for the 15-5 win in seven innings, but dropped the nightcap by a score of 2-1.
"We're fresh from a big 9-2 win over Hillsborough (Community College) in our last (Suncoast) conference game," said Panthers coach Rick Hitt. "And today we swung the bats real well and had strong pitching. It was a great win."
Down 2-1 to start the bottom of the second inning, the Panthers hitters strolled to the plate not knowing they were about to have their most potent inning of the season.
Tampa walked leadoff batter Chris Kazen, and Juan Terron brought him around with an RBI double. An error from the Spartans shortstop let Rodney Forbes reach while Terron came around to score and give SFSC a 3-2 lead. The Panthers never relinquished it.
Following three straight singles to load the bases, Justin Tedder blasted a three-run double to give the Panthers a 6-2 advantage.
Damian Boyum kept up the scoring barrage with a two-run double. Richard Trotter reached on a single, Kazen walked, and Terron, up for the second time in the inning, plated his second run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Tampa switched pitchers, bringing in Josh Schwarz, but he fared no better.
Walking Forbes to load the bases, Schwarz walked in three straight runs before Tedder smashed a two-run double to give the Panthers a commanding 14-2 lead.
South Florida State added its final run in the bottom of the fourth. Jorge Flores led off and reached base safely due to a throwing error from Tampa's Nick Brocato.
Tedder's single sent Flores to second, and an error from Black Bunch on Dalton Scarborough's laser let the Panthers load the bases. Trotter plated Flores with a sacrifice fly to cap SFSC's scoring.
South Florida State's Zach Osha came into relieve Kyle Cunningham on the mound, and cruised through the remaining innings. He allowed two runs and struck out three.
Tampa managed a handful of runs in the top of the sixth to make the final score more respectable. Brandon Bast opened the inning with a single, but Osha recovered to strike out William Kneller. A throwing error from Osha allowed a batter to reach first base while Bast scampered over to third base. Drew Adler followed with a two-run single to cut the deficit to 15-5. Justin Mercurio flew out to end the inning.
Hitt said the team lost some of its focus in the nightcap, as the Spartans edged the Panthers by one run.
"The guys are working hard, but we weren't consistent in our approach to the second game," he said. "We have to grasp the concept that just like being successful in life, baseball requires being consistent on a daily basis."
Still, Hitt added that getting a break in conference play always helps to alleviate the strain of a grueling baseball season.
"This gives us a chance to play some of the guys who don't get to see a lot of at-bats or many innings," Hitt said. "And it gives us a chance to rest some guys while also allowing the team to keep its momentum and have everybody stay in rhythm."
SFSC hosts Lincoln Land Community College Wednesday at 6 p.m.