LAKELAND - The Sebring faithful had little to cheer about on Tuesday night. Longtime rival West Seminole edged the boys in blue by a score of 5-2, knocking Sebring into the loser's bracket.
Sebring faced Hardee in an elimination game on Wednesday but results were not available at press time.
"We weren't taking what they were giving us," Sebring coach Anthony Gaines said. "And when you don't do that, you're gonna' lose. A few line drives would've gotten us a couple runs, but we like the fireworks I guess."
Sebring's bats got to work early, and the boys in blue had two runs on the board in the bottom of the second inning to take command of the game.
Luis Perez opened the inning with a solo home run, smashing a pitch over the left-field fence after battling to a full count. After Danny Cardoso flew out to third, Andrew Morris reached on a walk and Jacob Regino singled. Andrew Smith scored Morris on an RBI ground out, but an overzealous Regino tried for third base and was tagged out to end the inning.
Sebring pitcher George Martinez was immaculate through the first three innings, scattering just a handful of hits, but in the top of the fourth, West Seminole gained the upper hand on the strength of a two-run blast.
Manning Nabors leadoff with a single, followed by Matt Ridinger, who flew out to second base. Logan Wash scored Nabors with a bloop single, and Adam Ploch gave Seminole a one-run lead when he mashed a pitch over the scoreboard in center field.
Down one run, Gaines decided to make a pitching change, bringing in Josh Rivera for Martinez. Rivera promptly struck out West Seminoles' next two batters to quell the damage.
Sebring and West Seminole traded a scoreless fifth inning, but in the top of the sixth, West Seminole struck again.
Nabors led off reaching this time on an infield single Rivera got Wash to ground out to first, and with one runner on, Ploch was back up at the plate.
Like Martinez, Rivera worked the count in his favor, but Ploch would eventually win out, smashing his second two-run homer of the game to give West Seminole a 5-2 lead and send the West Seminole crowd into a frenzy.
Down three runs, Sebring was in desperate need of baserunners.
Dayvon Terry led off in the bottom of the sixth. He rocketed a pitch deep into center field, but it fell just shy of the outfield fence and into the glove of West Seminole's Clay Stitt for the first out of the inning.
Martinez followed with a high-arching pop fly to second base, and before Sebring's fans even had a chance to rally the team, they were already in the hole with two outs.
Perez extended the game with a single and Desmond Gaines ripped a ball over first-base bag to put runners on the corners. With Morris coming up to the plate as the tying run, it looked as if Sebring might tie things up. But a called strike three ended any hopes of a comeback.
After the postgame chat with his players, Gaines took the blame for the loss.
"We didn't come ready to play tonight, and that's my fault," he said. "We should score more than two. We're going to come ready tomorrow."