Lakeland, FL - Sophomore pitcher Nick Deckert pitched into the eighth inning and closer Victor Cole escaped a major jam in the ninth as top-ranked Tallahassee Community College kept its season alive with an 8-4 win over St. Johns River State College in a losers’ bracket game at the NJCAA Gulf District/FCSAA State Baseball Tournament.
The Eagles (46-9) advance to Sunday’s 4 p.m. game where it will play the loser of Saturday’s 7 p.m. contest between Seminole State College and Chipola College.
A four-run seventh gave Tallahassee an 8-2 lead, but the Vikings plated a run in the eighth to end Deckert’s day then made things extremely uncomfortable for the Eagles in the bottom of the ninth.
Tallahassee reliever Bradley Robbins, who recorded the final two outs in the eighth, failed to retire a batter in the ninth. Two hit-batsmen and two hits plated a run and left the bases loaded with nobody out.
After Robbins hit Sanders to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate, Tallahassee head coach Mike McLeod called on Cole, the Panhandle Conference Fireman of the Year.
Cole promptly retired the next three batters but not before a steady rain began to fall at Joker Marchant Stadium. Fortunately for the Eagles, it was not enough for game officials to halt things and when Tyler Humphreys flied out to right field, Cole had recorded his eighth save of the season.
Tallahassee played without leading hitter Clay Fenwick, who sprained an ankle in Friday’s loss to Hillsborough Community College. His replacement in the batting order, Cody Borup, was more than up to the task on Saturday.
Borup, a .245 hitter on the season, went 2-for-5, scored twice and drove in a pair of runs.
With the Eagles in front 2-1, he led off the fourth with a homer, his first of the season. His seventh-inning single scored Trent Higginbothem to start Tallahassee’s four-run frame.
Later in the seventh, Cruz’ bases-loaded single scored two runs and when Ian Townsend overshot third base on the relay, it allowed James Abbatinozzi to race home from third and give the Eagles an 8-2 cushion.
After giving up a first-inning run, Deckert settled in and held the Vikings to only one hit over the next four innings. St. Johns River State scored a run in the sixth and took advantage of a wild pitch and an error by Abbatinozzi to plate its run in the eighth.
Deckert left after 7.1 innings, having scattered eight hits and striking out five.
Unlike Friday, when it managed only four hits in a 3-0 loss to Hillsborough, Tallahassee gave Deckert plenty of offensive support.
With a runner on and two outs in the second, the Eagles’ bats came to life against St. Johns River State starter and losing pitcher Reid Love.
Cruz tripled to deep right-centerfield, scoring Abbatinozzi, and Matt Bahnick followed with a run-scoring double down the left field line.
After Borup’s fourth-inning homer, Tallahassee touched up Love for another run in the fifth when Higginbothem’s sac-fly to left scored Chad Mabini.
Cruz led Tallahassee’s 11-hit attack, going 3-for-5 with three RBI. Borup, Bahnick and Tyler York had two hits each.
Sunday’s game will be carried live by Panhandle Sports Broadcasting at www.PSBlive.com.