LAKELAND - Bad weather has a habit of interrupting Sebring and Lake Placid baseball games.
The two teams opened the Dixie Youth Ozone (ages 11-12) State Tournament at Aldine Combee Park in East Lakeland on Saturday afternoon, earning a split, as Sebring defeated Marianna 4-2 while Lake Placid fell to West Seminole, 13-5.
"We just keep plugging away," Sebring coach Anthony Gaines said after the game. "Rain-outs bother everybody. Our dugout was underwater, our cleats were wet and the field was in terrible condition. But we don't make excuses - there's no such thing."
While Sebring plowed through the district tournament, dropping only one game and regularly routing opponents by double-digits, the boys in blue found themselves tied at zero with Marianna midway through Saturday's game.
Sebring's Jacob Regino was impressive on the mound, cruising through the first three innings with three strikeouts and just one hit allowed. But Marianna's Jesse Harris was equally as effective at keeping Sebring's hitters frustrated.
But in the top of the fourth inning, Sebring's bats woke up.
Josh Rivera led off, hitting a high-arching pop-fly that appeared to be a routine out. But with some confusion between Marianna's Loren Waldron and Harris on who called for the ball, Waldron stumbled over the pitching mound and dropped the ball, allowing Rivera to reach first base.
Carson Angell advanced Rivera to second with a sacrifice bunt and the stage was set for Dayvon Terry. Behind in the count, Terry blasted a pitch back through the infield and brought Rivera home from second to score the first run of the game.
Terry continued to terrorize Marianna on the base paths, stealing both second and third base to set up George Martinez for an easy RBI opportunity. Martinez scored Terry with a single for a 2-0 lead.
Sebring kept its foot on the gas in the fifth inning. After Luis Perez reached on a single, Hunter Vanderpool and Andrew Smith both recorded two quick outs, and it looked as if Sebring had squandered a scoring opportunity.
But that's when Rivera came through for the second time.
Calmly stepping into the batter's box, he blasted a two-run homer over the center field fence to give his team a 4-0 lead, as a stunned Marianna crowd looked on in silence.
In the bottom of the fifth, Harris managed to figure out Regino, belting a lead-off double. Wesley Rogers followed with a walk, but a heavy thunderstorm was starting to roll in and tournament officials decided to preempt the flooding and cover the field with tarps before the rain started.
When the storm finally ended, nearly two hours later, Gaines decided to replace Regino with Angell.
"He (Regino) probably would've pitched the whole game," Gaines said. "But that rain delay killed us. And we're not going to throw a guy out there after his arm's been cold for that long."
Angell allowed an RBI single to Wilton Pittman but managed to force Ryder McDaniel into a double play. Rogers scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2, but Angell struck out Waldron to end the inning.
Sebring went quickly in the top of the sixth. Regino managed to draw a walk, but Marianna's new hurler, Riley Torbett, struck out the rest of Sebring's batters to keep his team within reach.
Beau Alday led off for Marianna, hitting a laser to Rivera, who bobbled the ball. The error had little effect on his psyche, though, as Rivera recovered to catch Alday trying to steal second base for the inning's first out. Rivera recorded the next two outs as well, rather routinely, catching a lazy pop fly from Caleb Torbett before throwing out Randall Smith to end the game.
"Every time we play somebody, we face their best," Gaines said. "But we never complain. We're just worried about ourselves."
Meanwhile, just one field over, Lake Placid was struggling against a powerful West Seminole team.
Despite an eight-run loss, Lake Placid did manage to create some of its own fireworks, as Kamari Brown had the highlight of the afternoon with a mammoth home run.
With the win over Marianna, Sebring earned a bye, and will play at 7:30 p.m. today against the winner of Sunday's Hardee and West Volusia game.
Lake Placid fell into the loser's bracket and faced off against Marianna at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Results of the games were not available at press time.