LAKELAND – There were 10 balls that left the yard throughout the first Sunshine State Conference doubleheader of the year for Florida Southern on Saturday, seven of which belonged to the top-ranked Spartans who took both games of the doubleheader 15-5 and 11-5 at historic Henley Field.
No. 1 Tampa (18-5, 3-2 SSC) came out with their bats ready to go in game one, pushing across nine runs in the first two innings. In the first, a two-out, two run homer to left by Nick Flair opened the scoring. Flair's day would just be getting started, as he went 5-for-10, consisting of two doubles and three home runs, in addition to his nine RBIs and five runs scored.
In the second inning, the Spartans scored seven runs.
FSC would answer back in the bottom of the third with a trio of runs. A leadoff single by senior shortstop Casey Eddinger (Crawfordville, Fla.) set the tone for the inning, which was followed by a single by senior left fielder Kyle Richards (Groton, Conn.). A third single by junior center fielder Sam Machonis (Tampa, Fla.) would plate the Mocs first run in the form of Eddinger, but Richards would be caught in between second and third on the play. After a walk by senior third baseman Chris Dennis (Rockledge, Fla.), senior first baseman Blake Swann (Live Oak, Fla.) drove in two of his three RBIs on the day with a single up the middle.
Reliever A.J. Smith (Merritt Island, Fla.) came in after the Mocs recorded just five outs, and was strong early in his outing. At one point, Smith retired 13 of 14 batters he faced from the third inning to the sixth.
Tampa would find its way back onto the scoreboard in the seventh, scoring four more runs in the inning. Andrew Amaro, nephew of Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., hit a two-run single up the middle to open the scoring in the inning. Casey Scoggins plated the other two runs with a single to right.
The Mocs would respond in the bottom half of the inning which got started with another single by Eddinger. All happening with one out, Richards followed Eddinger with a double down the line in left, and, after Eddinger scored on a wild pitch, Dennis drove in the second run of the inning with a base hit bunt down the third base line. That would conclude the Mocs scoring while Tampa scored one more in each of the final two innings.
In game two, Tampa got out to another early lead thanks to a solo shot the other way from Stephen Dezzi, who hit three bombs on the day.
With the series on the line, the Mocs knew they had to come up with something or else the bats of Tampa would put the game out of reach early like in game one. Senior catcher Joey Miller (Sarasota, Fla.) stepped up and smacked a two-out dinger to knot the game at one in the home half of the second.
The Spartans continued to hit; however, and used a homerun of their own from Flair to make it a 3-1 game.
A solo shot from Swann in the fourth brought the Mocs within one, but another two-spot by the top-ranked team in Division II would squander their efforts.
FSC would have its chance in the sixth as it was able to get bases loaded with one out in the inning. A leadoff single by junior designated hitter Jhalan Jackson (Winter Haven, Fla.) started things off, and, after a strikeout, senior right fielder Dominic Brugnoni (St. Clair Shores, Mich.) singled through the left side, and was followed by a walk by junior second baseman Shawn Sanders (Citra, Fla.). Miller represented the go-ahead run at the plate, and was able to bring one in on a sacrifice fly to center. That is all the Mocs would be able to muster though, as a fly out to right would end the threat.
From there, Tampa put up another crooked number, scoring seven runs in the seventh inning, making the game 11-3.
The Mocs were able to put two more on the board in the final frame thanks to Machonis's first homer in a Florida Southern uniform, but that would be the extent of the scoring for the inning.
Florida Southern returns to action on Tuesday, March 16, as they welcome Warner to Henley Field for a 6 p.m. game.