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Thursday, Jul 30, 2015
Local Sports

Titans sweep past Panthers

BY JIM TAYLOR Highlands Today

– The South Florida State College Panther lost two games to the St Petersburg Titans on Wednesday night. The first was the conclusion of the March 22 game that was suspended. The Panthers fell on the short side of a 3-1 final.

South Florida rallied from a 7-1 deficit in the second game to tie the score, but a two-out error in the top of the 10th inning led to four runs as the Titans defeated the Panthers by a score of 11-7.

The losses dropped the Panthers overall season record to 14-37 and 6-17 in the Suncoast Conference.

“We got down early, they made some plays against us,” said South Florida baseball coach Rick Hitt. “We did not pitch well early, but the hitters battled back and put us in a position to win, we just didn’t do enough.”

The Titans took an early 1-0 lead in the first when Jacob Lopez led off the game with a double and scored on a groundball out to the shortstop.

South Florida answered that with a run in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Josh Townsend reached base on an error by the Titan shortstop and later scored on a two-out double by Lucas Bagnara to tie the game.

St Petersburg took the lead in the top of the third as a leadoff walk led to a run for a 2-1 advantage.

In the fourth inning, St Petersburg seemingly took control of the game as they scored four runs on three hits, a walk and two hit batters to increase the lead to 6-1.

They added another run on a wild pitch in the fifth inning after leading off the inning with back-to-back singles to make the score 7-1.

The Panther bats came alive in the bottom of the fifth as Joseph Jusino, Seth Abeln, Jordan Rivera and Carlos Matamoros each singled in the inning.

That combined with Townsend reaching on a fielder’s choice and a walk to Lucas Bagnara resulted in the Panthers scoring three runs to cut the Titan lead in half to 7-4.

Townsend scored his third run of the game in the seventh inning after leading off the inning with a double. He scored on a single by Zach Calvin to draw the Panthers within 7-5.

Lane Crosson led off the bottom of the eighth with a single for South Florida. That was followed by Abeln’s third base hit of the game. Both would later score on a single by Bagnara to tie the game at 7.

Neither team scored in the ninth as the game headed into extra innings.

Josh Babar, who came in for relief with two outs in the fourth inning, held St. Petersburg scoreless for five innings, giving up just two hits during that span.

After getting the first two batters to easily fly out in the tenth, a routine groundball was misplayed by the Panther third baseman, giving the Titans life with two outs.

That was followed by two walks by Babar that loaded the bases and South Florida made a pitching change. They brought in James Gray to get the final out.

Switch hitting Jacob Lopez came up to bat for the Titans, batting left-handed against the right handed Gray. With the wind blowing from right to left field, Lopez hit a deep fly ball into left field that started to tail to the foul line.

It appeared to land in foul territory from the angle of the Panther bench before hopping over the fence. The umpire ruled the ball fair for a ground rule double that brought home two runs for the Titans and a 9-7 lead.

The Panthers did not recover as they would commit two more errors in the inning that allowed two more runs to score as St Petersburg led 11-7 going into the bottom of the tenth.

The Panthers attempted their own two-out rally in the bottom of the inning when Evan Lewis doubled and Crosson was intentionally walked.

The rally ended when Jusino grounded out to the shortstop to end the game with the Panthers falling short 11-7.

“Babar did a good job in relief,” said Hitt. “Unfortunately we did not make some defensive plays when we needed to, but that’s the way the season has been.”

South Florida travels to Clearwater to play the third game of the series against St Petersburg today. The Panthers host State College of Florida on Saturday at 1 p.m.