LAKELAND, FL - Alan Burnsed's three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning helped erase an early five-run deficit as Florida Southern College baseball picked up a thrilling 8-7 win over No. 9 Tampa on Friday night at Henley Field. The Moccasins (23-25, 9-19 SSC) found themselves down big in the early going as the Spartans (34-14, 17-11) plated five runs in the first two innings to take a 5-0 lead, but the Mocs struck for four in the bottom of the second and four more in the fourth before hanging on for the victory.
Jacob Kelley (4-2) earned the win for Southern by surrendering just one run in two innings of relief, and Leo Rodriguez tossed the final two innings to pick up his ninth save of the season in a game that was delayed for an hour due to lightning with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Tyler Beck (2-3) took the loss for the Spartans after entering the game with two on in the fourth before giving up the three-run homer to Burnsed.
Friday's win by the Moccasins ensured that Tampa can do no better than earn a share of the Sunshine State Conference title, and must win both games on Saturday to avoid falling out of contention. The teams will wrap up their three-game series tomorrow at 3 p.m. with a doubleheader, and Florida Southern will recognize its seniors with a pregame Senior Day ceremony at 2:30 p.m.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Things started off poorly for the Mocs as the Spartans struck for three quick runs in the first. Yorvis Torrealba led off the game with a walk and scored on Drew Ehrhard's homer to right in the next at-bat to make it 2-0. Danny Sirven followed with a moon shot to left center that gave Tampa a 3-0 lead, but Moccasin starter J.J. Niekro was able to settle down and get out of the inning without further damage.
- Danny Blair tripled down the right field line to lead off the top of the second and scored on Torrealba's one-out single up the middle to give the Spartans a 4-0 lead, and Tampa added another on an RBI fielder's choice in Sirven's at-bat later in the inning to make it 5-0.
- The Moccasins answered back with a big bottom half of the second, scoring four runs in the inning. Alex Goebel led things off with a double to left and advanced to third when Ricky Gonzalez singled up the middle in the next at-bat. Ryan Frost's walk loaded the bases with no outs, and Vaun Brown took advantage by lacing a hard-hit single through the left side to plate two.
- James Reynolds would replace Tampa starter Keven Pimentel, who suffered an apparent injury in the second and got the next two batters out before running into trouble. Frost, who had reached second on Brown's single, moved to third on a wild pitch before Christian Maglich walked to load the bases for Jacob Teter, who doubled through the right side to plate a pair of runs and slice the deficit to just one (5-4).
- After a scoreless third, Tampa would go back up by two when Sam Freitas doubled to left with two on and one out to bring a run across and make it 6-4, but Kelley was able to retire the final two batters to limit the damage.
- Brown and Pablo Cabrera hit back-to-back singles to open the bottom half of the fourth before Zach Scott singled through the left side to bring Brown home and make it 6-5. The next two Moccasins struck out before Burnsed came to the plate and pieced together an incredible at-bat that saw him battle back from an 0-2 count before driving the 10th pitch of the at-bat over the wall in right-center to give the Moccasins an 8-6 lead.
- Neither team scored in the fifth or sixth inning, but the Spartans did get one back in the top of the seventh when Nick DeTringo hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring Blair in from third to make the score 8-7.
- Rodriguez would enter the game in the top of the eighth for the Mocs and struck out the first batter he faced before issuing a walk to Sirven. It appeared as if the Mocs would get out of the inning easily when Rodriguez struck out Freitas for the second out, but back-to-back walks would load the bases and put Cole Perry in position to give Tampa a late lead. However, Rodriguez came up big and got Perry to fly out to center to end the threat and sat the Spartans down in order in the ninth to pick up the save.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 112-100 all-time against Tampa, including a 63-44 record when facing the Spartans at home. The Moccasins have defeated Tampa in each of the last three meetings between the teams, and have won five of the last six against the Spartans.
- Rodriguez's save was his ninth of the year and the 16th of his career. He ranks fourth in program history in career saves, and his nine saves this season are tied with Nate Carter (2012) for the seventh most in a single season.
- Friday's win by the Moccasins will keep Tampa from winning is fourth-straight outright SSC title. The Spartans needed to sweep Florida Southern to move past Eckerd and Nova Southeastern, both 19-11 in conference play, for first place. A split in Saturday's doubleheader would ensure that Tampa can finish no better than second.
- The Moccasins and Spartans will close out their three-game series with a 3 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday. Florida Southern will recognize its eight-member senior class prior to the first game of the twin bill.