SEBRING - Jonathan Struck seems to have found his rhythm on the mound.
The junior hurler is peaking when Sebring needs him most, and he guided the Blue Streaks to a 5-2 win over Class 5A-District 11 DeSoto Friday night at Firemen's Field.
"Jonathan did a great job for us on the mound tonight," Sebring coach Jasone DeWitt said. "He threw all three of his pitches for strikes, went the distance, and pitched with a lot of confidence."
Struck got an early cushion from his offense, as the Streaks (7-8, 2-2) scored five runs through the first two innings.
After the Bulldogs (7-10, 1-3) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Streaks answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Jordan Austin and Cullen Lovett reached on consecutive walks, and a wild pitch allowed both runners to move into scoring position. Following a lengthy battle at the plate, Matthew Portis brought Austin home with a sacrifice fly. Another wild pitch let Portis scamper home to put the Streaks up 2-1.
Struck breezed through the top of the second, fanning a couple of batters to set his teammates up for a big inning on offense.
Everett Hurst reached after being hit by a pitch, and Ty Little advanced him to second base with a sacrifice bunt. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases for Portis, and he brought in his second run of the night when he belted an RBI ground out.
With runners on second and third, catcher Jimmy Peck calmly dug in at the plate. After a handful of pitches, Peck found one he liked, and smashed it to the outfield fences for a two-run double. Peck finished 3 for 3.
DeSoto added its second and final run in the top of the third, when Javier Zamora scored Tony Lalonde with a sacrifice fly.
Despite not scoring another run for the rest of the game, Struck's masterful pitching carried the Streaks through the final innings. From the third inning on, Struck scattered a handful of hits, finishing the game with seven strikeouts.
Although Sebring's defense looked sharp against DeSoto, DeWitt and his staff are working to sustain that level of play as the season heads toward the stretch run.
"Our defense was solid tonight," DeWitt said. "But our goal is to keep the guys' oxygen level going - take a deep breath, be comfortable, and play the game. And we're staring to see that they're able to slow down and make the plays."
Sebring is in second place in the district standings with two games left in 5A-11 play. Up next for the Streaks is a trip to Lemon Bay. Sebring defeated the Manta Rays by a score of 6-2 earlier this season at Firemen's Field, and the Streaks are looking for a repeat performance on Thursday night. Beating Lemon Bay (5-8, 2-2) could secure a No. 2 seed for Sebring, as the district tournament is just weeks away. The Streaks wrap up their district schedule on April 8 with a home game against Hardee (13-2, 3-1), the No. 1 team in 5A-11.
DeWitt is confident that his team has the talent and the right mindset to finish the regular season on a high note.
"We've mixed in some guys during the non-district games in order to get the whole team comfortable with these big game situations," he said. "We want everyone to be poised in each game. And tonight, you saw that in our approaches at the plate. We've worked on getting them to understand that it's between them and the pitcher - no one else."
Sebring hosts Highlands Country rival Lake Placid Monday night at Firemen's Field. The non-district game starts at 7 p.m.