Wildcats edge Devils

AVON PARK - After beating the Ridge Bolts on Tuesday night 6-3 and the DeSoto Bulldogs 9-7 on Thursday night, the Avon Park Red Devils baseball team fell short in the Bill Jarrett Early Bird Tournament championship game with a 7-4 loss to the Hardee Wildcats Friday night.

Errors hurt the Red Devils the first two innings as Hardee jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

In the first inning, Hardee had runners on second and third with two outs. A routine ground ball by Hardee's Tyler Hewett to the shortstop ended up being a bad throw in the dirt which the first baseman was unable to handle allowing both runners to score to put the Wildcats on top 2-0.

Avon Park starting pitcher, Trey Frazier, struck out the first two batters to start the second inning. After giving up a double to Hayden Lindsey to the left-center wall, he induced a potential inning ending ground ball to the first baseman.

Instead, the first baseman bobbled the ball and was unable to make the play. With runners on first and third, Hardee's Kris Johnson singled up the middle to drive in Lindsey for the 3-0 lead.

The Wildcats increased their lead in the third inning as Avon Park changed pitchers. Mykel Gordon got the first batter out, gave up a walk and back-to-back singles brought in one run.

The Red Devils made another pitching change, bringing in Kenny McGrath. McGrath struck out the two batters he faced, but a passed ball during the second batter's at-bat allowed the second run of the inning to score as Hardee led 5-0 after three innings.

During this time, Hardee starting pitcher Cody Spencer held Avon Park scoreless and hitless over the first three innings.

Neither team scored in the fourth inning, though Avon Park managed to break up Spencer's no-hit bid on a swinging bunt single that traveled about 50 feet down the third-base line by Mason Jahna.

Errors hurt the Red Devils again in the fifth inning as the right fielder dropped a fly ball to allow the leadoff batter, Chevy Dolcater, to reach base.

He reached second on a stolen base and McGrath struck out the next batter, Jake Bolin, but the pitch got past the catcher allowing Bolin to reach base and Dolcater to take third. A balk was called on McGrath, sending Dolcater home and Bolin to second as the Wildcat lead bulged to 6-0.

Hardee scored their final run of the night on a single up the middle by Luke Winter that brought Bolin easily home for the 7-0 lead.

Avon Park finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth as JC Cobb blasted a double to the right-center wall. The Red Devils loaded the bases on two walks with two outs as Frazier came up to bat.

Frazier smashed a ground ball down the third-base line, but the Hardee third baseman made a spectacular dive behind the bag to stop the ball from reaching the outfield though by the time he got up to make a play, there was no play to make as all base runners were safe with Cobb scoring the first run for the Red Devils.

Trailing 7-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Hardee brought in Garrett Albritton to pitch the final inning.

The Red Devils rallied against the new pitcher, scoring one run on a wild pitch and loading the bases with two outs. Jahna collected his second hit of the night with a single through the right side as two run scored to cut the Hardee lead to 7-4.

That would be as close as they would get as Albritton struck out the final batter looking to end the game with the Hardee Wildcats winning the championship.

Avon Park will be on the road against Okeechobee Monday and the Red Devils are at Lake Placid Friday.