SEBRING — Rotary knocked the Firemen out of the Dixie Ozone (ages 10-12) City Tournament Thursday night at Max Long Complex by a 10-7 score. Rotary got seven runs in the first inning alone but the Firemen wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“I think we are the best hitters out here,” said Rotary coach Nate Vanderpool. “As long as we are hitting we will win.”
Rotary started pumping out hits early in the game, as Gunner Leonard singled, moved to third base on a double by Blayne Huter and Hunter Vanderpool followed with a two-run single to center field.
Tyson Bentley singled to left field and Cole Vanderpool hammered the ball over the left-field fence for a three-run homer.
Zach Miller reached on an error and Dillon Hartline lined the ball just above first baseman T.J. Granata’s glove for a single bringing home Miller. With two outs, Skyler Shaffer hit a double driving home Hartline for a 7-0 lead.
The Firemen brought in Keyshawn Hicks in relief to keep Rotary from scoring in the second and third innings. Hicks pitched two innings with five strikeouts and allowed only one hit.
The Firemen finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning. Mason Price hit a looper into shallow left field for a single. Robert Spoone lined the ball into center field for a single and an error moved the runners into scoring position.
Drew Smith lined a single to right field scoring Price and Spoone. Smith moved to second base on an error, advanced to third on a wild pitch and raced home on a hit by Hicks to trim its deficit to 7-3.
Rotary extended its lead as Leonard lined a single to center field, Huter reached on an error, and Hunter Vanderpool smacked a line drive to left field for a double scoring Leonard.
Bentley stepped up and plated Huter with a base hit to make it 10-3.
The Firemen answered in the bottom of the fifth as Aaron Murray, Cody Little, and Mason Price were all walked by Hunter Vanderpool.
Rotary brought in Huter to pitch and Spoone hit into a fielder’s choice to plate Murray. Smith plated Price with a ground out and Spoone raced home on a wild pitch to make it 10-6.
The Firemen would only score once more in the bottom of the sixth and final inning. Keegan White rolled an infield single, took second on a wild pitch and Granata singled up the middle to drive in White to pull Firemen within 10-7.
Huter retired the last batter to seal the victory.
With the win, Rotary advanced to the championship game on Friday night against Pool Paradise.
“We need to play another good game,” coach Vanderpool said. “If we hit we will win, if we don’t hit it will be a quick game.”
Results from Friday night’s game were not available at press time, but for the complete story and photos, be sure to read Sunday’s Highlands Today sports section.