Local Sports

Sebring dismantles Hardee

LAKELAND - No rain, no problem. In one of the few games of the Dixie Ozone (ages 11 to 12) State Tournament to go the full distance without a weather delay, Sebring pummeled Hardee 15-5 Monday night to advance to the quarterfinals. Despite the lopsided final, the game was tied at two heading into the fourth inning. "The only thing you can do against hard throwers is put the ball in play," said Sebring coach Anthony Gaines. "When you throw hard, that makes you mad, and I think we only finished with a few strikeouts."
The win advanced Sebring into a showdown with West Seminole on Tuesday night. Results of the game were not available at press time. Playing as the away team, it appeared from the outset that Sebring would have less trouble with long-time rival Hardee than it did against Marianna just one game earlier, as Dayvon Terry put the boys in blue on the board in the top of the first with a solo home run. But after two innings, Sebring only had two runs, the second of which came off of Josh Rivera's RBI single. And in the bottom of the third, Hardee managed to crack pitcher Luis Perez. After Sammy DeLafare flew out to left field, Matt Tyson reached on a walk, and Adrian DeLeon scored Tyson with a single. Drew McGuckin followed with a double, but a smart play from catcher Jacob Cardoso saved a run at the plate when he tagged out DeLeon. It appeared as if Sebring would escape the inning with just one run allowed, but an errant throw from Perez on a pick-off attempt let McGuckin scamper home to tie the score. Sebring made up for its lackluster defensive effort in the top of the fourth, scoring six runs to take an 8-2 lead. George Martinez started the inning with a leadoff walk, and was followed by Perez, who singled. Cardoso scored Martinez on an RBI ground out and Andrew Morris and Jacob Regino reached on back-to-back walks to load the bases for Andrew Smith. Smith hit a laser to third base, but Hardee's Bo Villarreal couldn't handle it, and his throw to first base was wide, allowing another run to score. Rivera earned his second RBI of the game as he drew a walk, and Hardee decided to make a pitching change. Now with Zack Deuberry on the mound, Terry was coming to the plate with the bases loaded. Deuberry mitigated the damage Terry could have done, as he got him to pop-up into the infield, resulting in an infield fly rule. But Smith scored on the play to extend Sebring's lead. Up for the second time in the inning, Martinez scored two more runs with a single before Perez grounded out to first. Sebring decided to change pitchers as well, bringing Terry onto the mound from third to start the bottom of the fifth. Terry didn't miss a beat, retiring Hardee's first two batters with ease. After Villarreal reached on a dropped third strike, Rivera backed up his pitcher with a circus catch on the edge of the outfield grass to finish the inning. Sebring went quietly in the top of the fifth, and Hardee made them pay for a few costly errors as the team scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. But it was too little, too late. Sebring tacked on seven more runs in the top of the sixth, highlighted by Terry's three-run blast. A handful of walks loaded the bases and brought a few more runs in, while Smith and Rivera each had an RBI to put the game out of reach. Down 10 runs, Hardee looked to do some damage when it loaded the bases with just one out. But another defensive highlight from Rivera - who made a basket catch on Tyson's blooper - put the team's hopes for a comeback to rest. Terry closed out the game by striking out DeLeon. "You've got to come ready to play," Gaines said after the game. "You can't work hard in practice and then not come to play - and that's what I'm trying to teach these kids." The win advanced Sebring into a showdown with West Seminole on Tuesday night. Results of the game were not available at press time. bhoward@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841