AVON PARK - For most of the season, Sebring baseball coach Jasone DeWitt has been trying to cultivate a winning attitude among his team.
Thursday night against the Blue Streaks' arch rival, he finally saw his players break through.
"Any time you get a win against a team like Avon Park, you've just got to continue to build on it." DeWitt said. "Tonight our guys battled and really showed their true character by not giving up."
The Class 5A Streaks came out swinging a hot bat, scoring five runs in the third inning to run away with an 8-2 win over Class 4A Avon Park at Charles R. Head Field. Sebring's victory ended the Red Devils' four-game win streak.
"We just didn't put quality at bats together tonight," Avon Park coach Whit Cornell said. "We left too many guys on base and didn't capitalize with timely hitting. That will get you every time."
Sebring (8-11) scored in the first inning thanks to a wild pitch from Avon Park's Kenny McGrath, which let Jordan Austin scamper home from third. The Devils (16-4) countered in the bottom of the second, tying the game off of Alex Gomez's towering solo home run.
Cornell brought in Tyrone Perry to relieve McGrath in the third, and the game unraveled from there.
Austin led off the inning with a single. After Cullen Lovett flied out, Matthew Portis singled to put runners on the corners. Another wild pitch let Austin score and advanced Portis to third base. Seth Cannedy followed with a single, and Josh Crouch singled to load the bases.
Down in the count, David DeGenaro stayed calm at the plate, drawing a walk to force another run and put Sebring up 3-1. Perry's troubles on the mounds worsened, and a slew of wild pitches let the Streaks score three more runs to cap the inning.
Meanwhile, Sebring's Jonathan Struck had found his groove on the mound, and was retiring Avon Park batters with ease. Struck pitched 5 2/3 innings, scattering seven hits and fanning eight Devils while allowing just one run.
"Jonathan was pitching where he wanted to tonight," DeWitt said. "And there's no doubt about it, Avon Park is a great hitting team. But Jonathan did an incredible job."
Sebring tacked on another run in the fourth when Portis plated Austin with a booming double to put the Streaks up 7-1. An Alfred Brown error in center field let Crouch sprint home to round out Sebring's scoring.
Avon Park seemed ready to rally in the bottom of the seventh, scoring a run on Trey Frazier's sacrifice fly. But Crouch came in to relieve Struck and shut down the Devils bats to close the game.
Sebring, who's been in the loss column this past month more than DeWitt would like, is looking to build off this momentum as the Streaks head towards the 5A-11 district tournament.
"We're locked in as the No. 3 seed in our district," DeWitt said. "We're two weeks away from the tournament and we're hoping to keep improving the little things. We're getting there, and a lot of guys who are inexperienced are getting a chance to play."
DeWitt added that building off of wins like Avon Park will be key down the stretch.
"For these guys, I want them to remember what it's like when you're doing things well out on the field. It's important to build on that each game. But we've got two weeks to get ready and I think we will be."