Florida bows out

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - Team Florida let slip away a three-run lead in the final inning to Team Arkansas on Sunday afternoon at Charleston Southern University in the Dixie Majors (ages 19-Under) World Series to fall 8-6. The loss eliminates Florida from the double-elimination tournament. "We had a nice lead, were winning, but Team Arkansas just strung together three or four hits to get some runs," coach Chad Wright said. "It's one of those things that just happens." Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on the strength of Jacob Smith's RBI single. But Florida would answer in the bottom of the second with a solo home run from Josh Baber. After going scoreless in the top of the second, Arkansas rallied to take a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the third inning.
That's when the Heartland All-Stars took command. Lane Crossen tied the game with a two-run double and Baber followed with an RBI single to give Florida a 4-3 lead. Josh Gomez added an insurance run with another RBI single. Florida pitcher Clayton Mason had settled into a groove after getting into trouble early, and managed to toss a scoreless fifth before being replaced by Zach Osha. Mason allowed three runs on seven hits through five innings. Florida would add another run in the bottom of the sixth, and it looked like the all-stars would hang on for a victory. But in the top of the seventh, Arkansas' bats came alive. The team scored five runs in the inning to take an 8-6 lead that it wouldn't relinquish. "It hurts, but that's baseball," Wright said. "Our kids played great. For some of them it was their last time to play Dixie ball - for others they've got a lot left." Despite the early exit, Baber's hitting performance shined again for Team Florida. Baber blasted two home runs over two games and captured the home run derby on Saturday night. Baber finished 2-for-3 against Arkansas with two RBIs. "He had a really great series," Wright said. "He had a handful of hits and some home runs. I'm really proud of him." Other highlights for Team Florida came from Seth Abeln and Trey Marley, who each recorded two hits. Crossen also finished with two hits. Arkansas' Wyatt Doggett earned the win in relief while Florida's Osha took the loss. Kyle Cunningham also saw some time on the mound for Team Florida, coming into relieve Osha in the top of the seventh. He allowed just one hit. bhoward@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841