SEBRING — The phrase “slow and steady” best describes the Sebring Firemen’s Dixie Ozone (ages 11-12) baseball team.
Friday night against the Sebring Elks at the Max Long Complex, the Firemen got off to a slow start, but stayed patient at the plate, eventually pulling away for a 4-1 win.
“It was a pretty slow game for us, but we ended up pulling it off,” Firemen coach Isaac Martz said. “Every time we tried to make some action happen, it seemed like it went against us. ”
The Firemen (4-1) got on the board in the top of the first, when center fielder Keyshawn Hicks singled to plate Robert Spoone. Hicks’ was the Firemen’s savior on offense, finishing 3-for-3 along with a stolen base.
The Elks, which dropped to 1-4, countered in the bottom of the inning, tying the game when Trey Bender scored Cope Brewer with an RBI ground out. But both teams’ bats fell silent as the opposing pitchers found their rhythm on the mound.
After trading scoreless innings, the Firemen exploded for three runs in the fourth. Spoone led off with an infield single, and Hicks reached thanks to an Elks (1-4) throwing error.
A wild pitch let Spoone scamper home, and Keegan White belted a single into the outfield to score Hicks. T.J. Granata plated White to cap the Firemen’s scoring.
The Elks had one last chance in the sixth. After walking the leadoff hitter, the Firemen fanned the next three hitters to close the game.
“We hit the ball well tonight, but it just didn’t fall,” Elks coach John Bender said. “We made solid contact, but we just hit it at them.”
“I’m real proud of the defense,” Bender added. “I gave a game ball to Payton Spencer, and I wish I had two to give out. Another big play came from Matt Jones, who slid a good 10 yards to make an out.”
Bender, who has an athletic team, said his Elks have been in every game they’ve played this season.
“We actually out hit them (the Firemen) the last time we played,” Bender said. “We’re young and athletic. They’re going to start making some noise once they get some confidence.”
Changes to the Dixie Ozone rules might help as well.
“The kids can lead off now, for the first time in Ozone,” Bender said. “And I’ve only got three kids who have ever led off a base before. They’re just now starting to get used to that.”
Despite a rough start to the season, the Elks have high hopes for to the rest of the year. All the league teams make the city tournament, and the regular season is used for seeding. Bender is confident his team will turn it around.
But the Firemen are looking to do some damage as well. Martz was less than thrilled with his team’s hitting performance on Friday, and said that some extra practice at the plate could help.
“I told them to hit off the tee at home to get their bats going,” Martz said. “We had a lot of good swings tonight, but we just didn’t hit the ball real solid.”
The Firemen will have Monday off, but resume its schedule on Tuesday against the Sebring Rotary. The Elks play Monday against Sebring’s Pool Paradise. All games are at Max Long and start at 6 p.m.