AVON PARK - After starting the season 1-7, the South Florida State College baseball team is on the verge of turning its season around despite losing to Daytona State College by a score of 7-6 on Friday.
The Panthers have split the last six games they've played, losing by one in each of their three losses in that span as their record currently stands at 4-10, but could easily be at 7-7.
Daytona State improved to 5-4.
The Falcons scored one in the top of the first inning and added two more in the second inning as Matt Saliba reached base on a walk and Lucas Johnson doubled into left field to put runners in scoring position.
Conner Kolby followed with a single to drive in Saliba and Johnson scored on a ground ball to second base to increase their lead to 3-0.
The Panthers struck quickly in the bottom of the second when leadoff batter Austin Bingham crushed Brad Emory's delivery over the left-field fence to bring the Panthers within 3-1.
Taylor Layner, the starting pitcher for the Panters, settled down after the second inning to shut down the Falcons over the next three frames.
In the bottom of the fourth, South Florida started the inning with four straight base hits as Jorge Flores opened the inning with a single to right field. Layner singled up the middle and Damian Boyum followed with a base hit into left field to load the bases.
Chris Kazen followed with another single down the left-field line to drive in Flores and Layner to knot the game at 3 with runners at second and third and no outs.
Austin Johnson hit a ground ball to the shortstop, but Boyum was able to score and Kazen advanced to third.
Josh Townsend capped off the scoring with a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Kazen to put the Panthers on top 5-3.
Daytona State College cut the lead in half in the top of the sixth as Joe Shue reached on a one-out single to left field, stole second base and scored on a RBI single by Mitchell Barati to make it 5-4.
The Falcons regained the lead in the seventh inning after getting runners on second and third with two outs. A wild pitch allowed the first run to score, a walk put runners on first and third and Daytona State executed a delayed double steal as the baserunner on first went halfway to second. The Panthers threw to the first baseman, who started to chase the runner, then stopped to throw the ball to third.
The base runner, Ezequiel Sanchez, caught off of third base broke for home.
What appeared to be an easy out turned out to be disastrous as the throw by the Panther third baseman hit Sanchez and glanced away from the catcher, allowing Sanchez to score for a 6-5 lead.
Daytona State scored what would turned out to be a much needed insurance run in the top of the ninth. Sanchez singled to start the inning, Shue hit a ground ball to the third baseman that had the makings of a routine double play to end the inning.
Instead he muffed the throw to second base as Sanchez, instead of being out, headed to third base. He later scored on a passed ball to give the Falcons a 7-5 lead.
The Panther's rallied in the bottom of the ninth when Austin Johnson led off with a blistering drive over the center fielder's head that went to the wall and resulted in a triple. Townsend singled into left field to bring South Florida within 7-6.
The Panthers moved Townsend to second on a sacrifice bunt, but stranded him in scoring position as the next two batter grounded out to third and second to end the game.
South Florida is back on the diamond on Monday with a road game at Seminole State College.
The Panthers host State College of Florida at 6 p.m. Friday in a Suncoast Conference game.