AVON PARK - South Florida State's baseball team overcame a sluggish start to thump Rollins College's B Team Monday night at Panther Field.
The Panthers fell into an early 2-0 hole, but stormed back to score eight runs over the final three innings to beat the Tars by a score of 12-3.
"We're on a modest win-streak right now," said South Florida baseball coach Hitt. "We've been swinging the bats well the past few games, and we really exploded in the late innings tonight."
Rollins' (3-4) scored two runs in the top of the first inning. Starting Panthers pitcher Jose Munoz rebounded to get out of the inning with minimal damage, but as the game wore on, Hitt knew his pitcher needed some relief.
"Jose's got a great arm on him and he just needs to build some confidence," Hitt said. "He's got to believe in himself. But I've got faith that he'll figure things out as the season goes along."
The Panthers bats sparked to life in the bottom of the third. Chris Kazen opened the inning with a single, and after consecutive outs, Justin Tedder brought Kazen home when a Rollins player mishandled the pop fly. Tedder scampered home on a wild pitch to tie the game before Dalton Scarborough grounded out to end the inning.
The Tars retook the lead in the top of third, but the Panthers answered with two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Jorge Flores and Austin Johnson drew back-to-back walks, advanced to second and third base on Damian Boyum's single, and were able to trot home thanks to consecutive wild pitches from Rollins' Tom Lemons.
"We really picked it up late," Hitt said. "It's always good to see a crooked number up on the scoreboard."
As the Panthers offense started to catch fire in the late innings, so did their defense.
Pablo Rubio took the mound for SFSC in the top of the seventh and effectively shutdown the Tars offense. He closed the game, allowing just one hit while fanning five batters.
"I think the key was really Zach Bailey coming in and solidifying the middle innings," Hitt said. "That freed up Pablo to come in and get comfortable with a fresh inning. And Pablo had all three pitches working and a did a really good job of mixing them up for the hitters."
In the bottom of the sixth, SFSC added to its lead. Scarborough drew a walk to start the inning, and Boyum brought him home with a sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, with Flores and Johnson in scoring position, Austin Bingham brought them home with a two-run single to make it 7-3 in the Panthers' favor.
Boyum added to the fireworks in the seventh when he sent a three-run blast over the outfield fence and into the palm trees. RBI singles from Esaul Hernandez and Johnson in the eight rounded out the scoring for the Panthers.
Hitt said Monday's come-from-behind win should give his team a boost of confidence.
"I'm really happy for the guys," he said. "We've played a lot of close games early. And we've lost some of those 3-1 and 3-2 games - where one play could've changed the outcome. And the last couple of days we've found a way to win. We broke games open, and tonight, we broke open a 4-3 lead to pull away."
SFSC (4-7) will be in action again tonight, as the Panthers host Indian River State College at 5 p.m. The game is a quasi-doubleheader, as the Panthers will resume last week's game that was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth at Indian River, when play was called on account of darkness.
Following the conclusion of last week's game, the Panthers and Pioneers will immediately start their regularly scheduled game at Panther Field.