LAKE PLACID - Less than 24 hours after Sebring thumped Lake Placid to move into the winner's bracket of this year's Dixie Youth Ozone district tournament, the team thrashed Avon Park on Saturday afternoon, 14-0 in four innings, to move on to the championship game.
"We've got a bye now, but we're going to be ready to go Monday," said Sebring coach Anthony Gaines. "Every day it's a new game. We're not going to take anyone for granted."
Despite the lopsided final score, Sebring's bats appeared to have cooled at the game's outset. Avon Park held Sebring to just one run in the opening inning, but it only delayed the inevitable.
Paced by Hunter Vanderpool, Sebring scored 13 runs over the next three innings. Vanderpool, who finished 3 for 4 with three RBI, blasted a three-run homer in the top of the second to give his team an early 5-0 lead, and Avon Park never recovered.
Things really went south for Avon Park in the top half of the fourth inning. With Vanderpool leading off, Sebring managed to cycle through its lineup. Vanderpool opened with a single, followed by Andrew Morris and Josh Rivera, who also reached on singles, and the bases remained loaded for the next seven batters. Sebring even managed to score without swinging the bat, as Avon Park walked in three runs.
Sebring's strong pitching carried over from Friday night as well. Rivera got the start, and pitched two shutout innings, before being pulled for Jacob Regino. Carson Angell rounded out the afternoon for Sebring, helping his team complete the four-hit shutout.
By the bottom of the fourth, with Sebring up 14-0, Avon Park's Keyshaun Hicks managed to snap his team's drought at the plate. He hit a bloop single that fell perfectly behind third base at the edge of the outfield, just out of reach for either of Sebring's fielders.
His two-out single helped keep Avon Park out on the diamond for a few minutes longer, before Cooper Tyler went down looking at a called third strike to end the game.
Avon Park's hitters looked unstoppable Friday night against Lake Placid, but against Sebring's pitching, the team that was fresh off of scoring 10 runs looked helpless at the plate on Saturday.
Avon Park's hitters finished the day with seven strikeouts, while Sebring had four.
After the game, coach Gaines spoke about the importance of having solid pitching.
"You can't simulate game action," Gaines said. "So you want to get the kids out there and get them experience on the mound. You can't do that in practice. And as you move along in any tournament, you need them to have some reps, because you never know what's going to happen, with any game or with injuries."
"You're going to want to have kids out there pitching who have been to war," he added.
With the loss, Avon Park falls into the loser's bracket, and faced Lake Placid in an elimination game on Sunday.
Results were not available at press time.
Lake Placid eliminated Okeechobee Saturday morning by a score of 13-1 in four innings.
Sebring will face the winner of the Avon Park-Lake Placid game tonight and will have to lose twice to either team to be knocked out of the double-elimination tournament.