Local Sports

Worth the wait

SEBRING - The Sebring team brought their own fireworks for Thursday's Fourth of July championship game in the Dixie Youth AAA District 8 Tournament at Max Long Complex. Sebring, the only undefeated team left in the double-elimination tournament, defeated a gritty Avon Park squad by a score of 10-0 in four innings to earn a berth in the Dixie Youth AAA state tournament in Freeport that begins on July 12. The district tournament started last Friday and was scheduled to end on Monday night, but the monsoonal rains that have deluged the Heartland the past few days pushed the tournament back to Thursday morning. But winning the tournament and punching their ticket to state made the wait worthwhile for Sebring.
"The kids came out and did a good job of putting the ball in play," said Sebring AAA coach Kirby Whitehouse. "We swung the bats like we know how and our pitching is spot on right now. "Hats off to a real tough Avon Park team because their coaches are teaching them the right way to play the game. "We're looking forward to going to state and we're going to see some real good pitching, but we just have to keep swinging the bats and we'll be fine." Avon Park gave a valiant effort throughout the tournament and advanced to the championship game by outlasting Okeechobee by a score of 14-13 in a game that took three days to finish because of the heavy rains. "I'm super proud of all of these kids because they played their hearts out," said Avon Park AAA coach Jason Massey. "The difference in the game was Sebring hit the ball and we didn't. "We have a lot of kids coming back and I think everybody knows we're a team to look out for." Sebring right-hander Jonathan Delgado retired Avon Park in the top of the first inning and the boys in blue went to work in the bottom of the frame. Nathan Andrews worked a leadoff walk off Avon Park right-hander Sam Ferguson, Reid Whitehouse walked and Zach Doorlag reached on an infield single. Run-scoring hits by Ty Martz and Landon Baker scored a pair of runs for a 2-0 lead. Avon Park had a runner reach second base in the top of the second inning, but Delgado bore down to keep him from scoring. Sebring went back to work in the bottom of the third inning as Andrews singled, Doorlag singled and a wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position. A fielder's choice plated a run and Baker lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to make it 4-0. Delgado, who gave up one hit, kept Avon Park off the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning. Sebring erupted in the bottom of the inning as Cole Vanderpool walked, Conor Delaney walked and Nathan Andrews singled to load the bases. Whitehouse lined an RBI single to left field, a wild pitch scored a run and Doorlag ripped a double to left-center field to plate two more runs. Delaney, up for the second time in the inning, ended the game with a run-scoring single to left field to make the score 10-0. The game was called because of the 10-run mercy rule to bring an end to the lengthy tournament. Sebring will practice this week in preparation for the trip to Freeport where they will represent the Heartland in the Dixie Youth AAA state tournament. "This is a special Fourth of July and good defense and solid pitching carried us in this tournament," Coach Whitehouse said. "I can't thank our parents and coaches enough because they do anything for these kids and we've got a lot of confidence heading to the state tournament." mpinson@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841