Patriots power past Falcons

Correa's grand slam paces mercy-rule win.

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Posted April 19, 2023 | By Mark Pinson
Special to Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette
When you have an offense like the College of Central Florida, a four-run deficit midway through a game is nothing to get too worked up over.

The Patriots, who lead the state in home runs and runs scored in the junior college ranks, scored 13 runs in the final three innings, capped by a grand slam by sophomore Juan Correa, to cruise past Daytona State College by a score of 13-4 in a seven-inning, mercy-rule victory.

The win improved the College of Central Florida, the second-ranked junior college team in the nation, to an impressive 44-4 on the season.

“Their (Daytona State) pitcher did a good job of keeping the ball down and we hit some balls hard right at people the first few innings and we just had to keep battling and try to get into their bullpen which is what we did,” said veteran Patriots coach Marty Smith. “Our pitchers kept us in the game and we woke up at the plate. We can hit bullpens and that’s what we were able to do.”

Daytona State, which dropped to 16-24 overall, took advantage of wildness by College of Central Florida starter Todd Kniebbe, who walked five batters in two innings, to score a run in the top of the second inning on an RBI double by Devon Nowells.

The Falcons plated a pair of runs in the top of the third inning on a run-scoring single by Joe Becker and a bases-loaded walk by reliever Austin Eppley.

Daytona State, which had six hits and 10 walks, extended its lead to 4-0 in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI double by Nate Cannizzaro.

The College of Central Florida finally broke through against Daytona State right-hander Clay Hendry in the bottom of the fifth inning as Thad Ector doubled and scored on a single to left field by Cole Bullen. John Marant worked a walk and Edwin Toribio followed with a ground-rule double to right field to plate Bullen.

Daytona State brought in Bryce Roth to relieve Hendry. Carson Bayne walked to load the bases, Kameh Valentin ripped a bases-clearing triple down the right-field line and scored on an infield error to give the Patriots a 6-4 lead.

Central Florida right-hander Keller Eberly, who came on in relief in the fifth inning and scattered three hits, cruised through the Daytona State lineup in his three innings of work to earn the win.

The Patriots broke out the lumber in the bottom of the seventh inning against three different Daytona State pitchers. Two walks, a hit batter and four base hits produced a seven-run explosion. Correa’s grand slam, a high drive over the left-field fence capped the inning.

The home run was the 97th of the season for the College of Central Florida and sets a new school record with four regular season games to play.

The Patriots, who need one win or a Santa Fe loss to clinch the Mid-Florida Conference regular season championship, are back on the diamond on Friday with an away game at Seminole State College.

Central Florida is looking forward to finishing the season strong and competing in the postseason in one of the toughest regions in the country.

“We’re 44-4 on the season which is incredible.” coach Smith said. “It’s the best record percentage wise we’ve ever had. We just need to take care of business the next few games. We’re pretty talented and have the best record in the country. It’s just so hard to get out of Florida. If we can get out of Florida, maybe we can do some damage in the junior college world series.”

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