SEBRING - The boys in blue put up a valiant effort, but fell six runs shy of a victory.
Sebring was eliminated from the Dixie Youth T-ball state tournament Monday night, 19-13, by Spring Hill in a thrilling game.
"That was a tough game," Sebring coach Toby Taylor said after the loss. "Spring Hill was a team with a lot of confidence heading into today, but we figured if we had a good game we could come out on top."
Spring Hill began the game with an offensive explosion, scoring six runs in the bottom of the first inning to take a daunting 6-0 lead.
Sebring responded in the second inning by scoring two runs to cut the deficit to four. After Carsen Crisafulli grounded out, Brody Hall led off with a single and Nelson Morales knocked in the team's first run soon after. A wild pitch scored Morales, but the base running errors would prove costly, as Sebring's next two batters both ran into tags.
"That's a lack of focus," Taylor said. "We preach to the kids, 'pop-flies, we go halfway. They catch it, we go back.' But today we had kids who didn't listen to that."
After Spring Hill plastered five more runs onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the second to take an 11-2 lead, Sebring rediscovered its offense in the third.
Paced by three straight singles from Cam'ron Diaz, Camden Culverhouse, and Chase Vaughn to start the inning, Sebring got back into the game when Martz blasted a three-run double to make it 11-5. After Steven Santos grounded out to third, Beny Bikar brought home Kael Martz with an RBI single. Crisafulli would single to bring Bikar home soon after.
But with just one out and a man on first, Sebring again made a costly error.
Hall hit a line drive to the pitcher, who then turned and ran down Crisafulli before he could make it back to the bag for the third out.
"We are our own worst enemy sometimes," Taylor said. "There wasn't a team in this tournament that I was worried about except ours. Because when you're not focused or paying attention, you put yourself in a hole you can't crawl out of. And that's what happened."
Sebring's defense seemed to get back on track in the fourth inning, holding Spring Hill to just three runs. But after only scoring three runs of their own, Sebring still had a lot of ground to make up.
Trailing 16-10, Sebring scored only one run in the top of the fifth inning, thanks to Bikar's RBI single. But Spring Hill would tack on three more runs to extend its lead to eight runs.
In the top of the sixth inning, Sebring put forth another strong effort, but it wasn't enough to overcome the team's earlier mistakes. After Morales singled, Robert Duncan followed him with a ground out. Hunter Stone scored Morales to make it 19-12, but after a force out at second, Culverhouse would single to bring in the team's final run of the season.
Despite the loss, coach Taylor said he was extremely proud of his team and how far they've come since the first day of practice.
"When I got this group, there were kids who were scared of having a ball thrown to them," he said. "And now they're catching pop flies. This team has come a long way since the first practice. I'm proud of them."