Avon Park wallops Wildwood

SEBRING - If Avon Park was hungry for a win Monday night, the team must've been starving for one on Tuesday afternoon. The All-Stars dismantled Wildwood by a score of 14-4 at Max Long Complex to move into the semifinals of the Dixie Boys (ages 13-14) State Tournament. The win kept Avon Park alive in the double-elminination tournament, setting up a game with Spring Hill at 8 p.m., also on Tuesday. Results were not available at press time. "When these guys are on, it's like dynamite," said Avon Park coach Abe Cervera. "Everything was on today. Our pitching, our hitting, our baserunning. And we were really on today."
Dynamite might be an understatement. Avon Park's offense has been prolific over the last few games, as the team was fresh off of a 18-5 thumping from the night before. But after scoring just two runs in the top of the first inning, it seemed as if the team's bats had finally cooled. In the second, however, back-to-back errors from Wildwood's shortstop put two runners on. Deont'a Kerney's bunt sacrifice advanced Joel Serrano and Johnny Perry into scoring position and Jacques Gordon scored Serrano from third with an RBI single. Dylan Pantaline followed with a walk, and Wildwood's third error, this time from right field, allowed two runs to score. Now with runners on the corners, Luis Cervera scored Pantaline from third with an RBI ground out. Leading 7-1 in the bottom of the second, Anthony Torres found himself in trouble on the mound. Wildwood had a man on second and only one out, but after a short discussion with his infield, he regrouped to strike out the next two batters to end the inning. Avon Park kept its foot on the gas in the third inning. Paced by three doubles, the All-Stars scored six runs to take a 13-1 lead. Derrick Hawthorne lead-off with a single and quickly stole second base. Serrano scored Hawthorne with an RBI single and Wildwood decided it was time to make a pitching change. Switching hurlers had little effect on Avon Park's hitters, though, as Perry drew a walk from the new ace. Kerney struck out swinging, but Gordon blasted a double to score Serrano and Perry. Pantaline followed with a stand up double, and Torres' sacrifice fly scored another run. Cervera scored his second RBI of the game with a triple and Adarius Council followed with a walk to set up Hawthorne. Up again for the second time in the inning, Hawthorne scored Cervera and Council when he smashed a pitch onto the warning tracks in left-center field for a two-run double. Up 12 runs, Cervera made a move to save his pitcher's arm. He moved Torres to shortstop and put Council on the mound. Council retired Alan Greene with a throw to first base after he hit a dribbler back to the mound and ended the inning after forcing Jarrod Hurst into a deep pop fly into left field. After a scoreless fourth, Avon Park scored its final run in the top of the fifth inning. Pantaline reached second when Wildwood's center fielder dropped the ball, and after Torres reached on another error from Wildwood's third baseman, Hawthorne scored Pantaline with an RBI single. Not wanting to play past the fifth inning, Avon Park found itself in a jam when Wildwood's Jeffrey Sutton and Greene reached on back-to-back singles. Deriyon Shine scored them with an RBI single, but Council got Hurst to fly out to center field. Sumner added another run with an RBI ground out, and Wildwood was just one run away from thwarting the 10-run mercy rule. So with the team's power hitter, Ty St. Amant, coming up to bat, Cervera gave Council the signal for the intentional walk. The strategy worked perfectly, as Chandler Benton grounded out to Torres who tossed the ball to Perry at second base to end the game. "I'm just really excited right now," Cervera said. "This is the farthest this group of kids has ever gone. And now, to be so close to the championship, if you can't get excited for that, than there's just something wrong." bhoward@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841