SEBRING - It had all the makings of an instant classic. But after the third inning, it was all Wildwood.
The boys in blue fell to Wildwood in the second game of the Dixie Youth T-ball (ages 5 to 6) state tournament, 18-7 in five innings, to drop into the loser's bracket on Saturday afternoon at Max Long Complex.
"We seemed a little sluggish out there," said Sebring coach Toby Taylor. "I think we hesitated on some plays, and when you do that, bad things happen."
From the outset, however, the game looked like it was going to be a barnburner.
Despite recording the first two outs rather quickly, Wildwood's Marc Stephens and Jay Strawder each managed to knock in a run to give their team a 2-0 lead. But in the bottom half of the inning, Sebring responded with a two-out rally of their own.
With Kael Martz sitting on first base, Steven Santos managed to tie up the game in dramatic fashion, scoring two runs on an inside-the-park homer.
"We had a couple of good hits," Taylor said. "Some of the kids didn't hit the ball as well as they normally would. We played well, just not as well as we can play. But I'll give kudos to Wildwood - they're a good team."
But that would be Sebring's last two runs until the bottom of the fourth inning.
After a scoreless second, Wildwood's bats exploded in the top of the third inning. The team pounded out eight runs to take a 10-0 lead. And in the fourth, Wildwood added seven more.
Now trailing 17-2, Sebring found itself in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind.
Martz got Sebring back on track in the bottom of the fourth inning with a lead-off single. Santos came up to bat and blasted his second inside-the-park home run of the game to make it 17-4. With no outs, it looked like Sebring might have a slim chance to pull off the comeback.
But it was not to be.
Beny Bikar flew out to left soon after, and despite an RBI ground out from Brody Hall, Nelson Morales lined out to first base to end the inning.
It was arguably Sebring's most efficient at-bat of the game.
Wildwood scored its final run in the top of the fifth and Sebring added two more in the bottom of the inning to make the score more respectable, but it wasn't enough, and the game was called on mercy rules.
Despite the big loss, coach Taylor praised the parents for their dedication to getting their kids ready for each game and at each practice on time.
"We practice hard to get these kids ready for the tournament," he said. "We have great parents. They've done nothing but helpful all year long. There's been a lot of support from them - they've really been great."
And it wasn't all gloom and doom for Sebring against Wildwood. It was Santos' sixth birthday, and the team honored him with a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" in between games.
Sebring played Brooksville in an elimination game following the loss against Wildwood. Sebring won 24-7 in five innings to advance to play Spring Hill on Monday.
Results of the game were not available at press time.