Panthers blanked in finale
AVON PARK - In a game in which both starting pitchers hurled complete games, the South Florida State College Panthers were on the short end of a 5-0 score against St. Petersburg in their final game of the season. “I thought it was well pitched on both sides,” said South Florida coach Rick Hitt. “We did not do a whole lot with the bats today. Justin Machado battled today except for one inning where he made a couple of mistakes and hit a few guys.” The loss dropped the Panther’s overall record for the season to 14-42 and 6-22 in the Suncoast Conference Standings. The first four innings of the game flew at an incredible pace as each starting pitcher dominated on the mound.For the Titans, Robbie Coursel allowed only two hits, both to leadoff batter Seth Abeln. The Panthers’ Machado not only matched him, but did slightly better, as he only surrendered one hit in the first four innings. In the fifth inning, Machado ran into control problems after getting the first out of the inning. He hit a batter, gave up a single and then hit another batter to load the bases. He walked the next batter to bring home the first run of the game, giving St Petersburg a 1-0 lead. Machado then recorded a strikeout for the second out of the inning as it appeared he had regained his composure and was going to escape the big inning, but he ended up hitting his third batter of the inning and another run came across the plate to make the score 2-0. The Titans capped off the scoring when Jordan Taylor hit a soft fly-ball single into shallow left field that brought home two more runs as St Petersburg led 4-0. “We have talked all year long about what leads to big innings and what starts big innings,” Hitt said. “Unfortunately we allowed that one big inning. It has been a difficult year in a win-loss perspective and a challenging year in many ways that people do not know about in the standpoint of players in and players out.” Hitt made the decision to bring Machado back out in the sixth inning. Machado answered the call by only allowing two hits over the next four innings, but did give up another run in the ninth as the Titans led 5-0. Coursel earned the six-hit shutout for St. Petersburg while striking out 10.
Hitt spoke to his sophomore players for about 20 minutes after the game.
He applauded the guys who showed up every day, especially those who not only gave a good effort on the field and in the classroom, but also in representing the school in the community. For those who did not, he said he did not have a lot to say about those guys.
“For the ones that did, I really appreciate the effort,” Hitt said.
He also stated that he was thankful for having a school administration that supports athletics the way they have and appreciated the fans that came out every day to watch them play, regardless of how they played.
“We have an excellent fan base and we have for many years,” he said.
As for the future, Hitt noted that it was his responsibility to get the program back to where it has been in the past and that they have not been there for the past two years.
“I will make the decisions necessary to make sure that happens,” Hitt said. “We’ll go forward and look forward to next year.”
As for the departing sophomore class, Hitt cited that they are all pretty good kids.
“I hope everything works out for them the way they want it to and they go on to have their successes in life,” he said.
The Panthers will hold their team banquet Monday and, after that, begin the process of gearing up for the 2014 season.