Niceville, FL - Saturday’s series finale at Northwest Florida State College could be filed under Panhandle Conference 101 for Tallahassee Community College’s baseball team.
For starters, Tallahassee learned how quickly momentum can come and go against a PC opponent. The Eagles carried a 5-0 lead to the bottom of the eighth – but by the time they came to bat in the ninth, found themselves trailing, 7-5.
The Eagles also saw the value of playing until the final out – they tied the game with two runs in the top of the ninth then plated the go-ahead run an inning later to claim an 8-7, 10-inning victory over the host Raiders.
Tallahassee scored the winning run in the tenth when, with two outs, head coach Mike McLeod dialed up a well-timed safety squeeze that Anthony Torres executed to perfection. As Torres’ bunt hugged the third base line, all Raiders third baseman Jordan Desguin could do was watch as James Abbatinozzi, who bunted his way on with one out, raced home from third with the tie-breaking run.
Chad Mabini, who started the game at second base and became the Eagles’ sixth pitcher of the game, recorded the final out of the ninth and successfully worked around a leadoff double in the bottom of the tenth to earn the victory.
Tallahassee (29-4, 3-0 PC) swept the series from Northwest Florida State (16-11, 0-3), including a pair of one-run victories in Niceville. The Eagles won the series opener, 3-2, on Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours after a 14-2 win in game two, Tallahassee found itself six outs away from completing the sweep.
“I thought it looked like we relaxed a little bit,” said Tallahassee head coach Mike McLeod. “Next thing you know, we’re losing.”
The Raiders got off the deck, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the eighth.
The first five batters reached base to cut Tallahassee’s lead to 5-2 and knock out Ethan Bornstein, who came on in the sixth and tossed two scoreless innings before running into trouble.
The Raiders’ rally continued against Patrick Riley.
Right fielder Cody Borup mishandled a fly ball off the bat of Chris Madera to plate the third run of the inning then, with the bases loaded, Nick Masonia atoned for an earlier error by smacking a wind-aided grand slam over the left field fence.
Just like that, Tallahassee found itself trailing 7-5 and down to its final three outs.
The Eagles quickly went to work against Northwest Florida State closer Michael Royal in the ninth.
Three straight singles, the last by Mabini, resulted in a run and left runners on the corners with nobody out. Royal induced the next batter, Clay Fenwick, into a 6-4-3 double play, but it was enough to score Torres from third with the tying run.
Northwest Florida State outhit Tallahassee, 16-14, but only went 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position and stranded 15 base runners. The Raiders also committed two more errors, raising their total to 11 in the series.
Masonia’s second-inning error allowed Trent Higginbothem and John Price, Jr., to score and give Tallahassee starter Nick Deckert a 2-0 lead.
Tallahassee extended its lead to 5-0 in the sixth but Deckert, who allowed six hits and walked three over five scoreless innings, wound up with a no decision.
Tallahassee will open a three-game series with Chipola College on Monday with a 5 p.m. game at Eagle Field.