CF rallies past St. Johns River
The College of Central Florida’s Tre Hondras (10) makes it safely back to first base as St. John’s River State College’s Connor Morgan (7) looks for the out during a baseball game at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, April 19, 2021. The CF Patriots won the game 4-3. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
Neither team was throwing its best pitchers, and both teams were trying their best to hide their best stuff from the opponent.
With a 4-3 win against the Vikings, CF secured the third seed in the Mid-Florida Conference tournament, where it will be the designated home team against their good friends in Palatka in a winner-take-all game on Saturday at Seminole State College.
The winner will face Seminole in a best-of-three series for a spot in the state tournament. The Patriots are 3-1 against St. Johns this season.
“We didn’t give up any secrets today knowing that we’re probably going to play each other Saturday,” Pats coach Marty Smith said. “We feel like we can go in there with confidence, and if we play well, we’ll be OK.”
Starter Nick Love cruised through the first two innings, but his defense hung him out to dry in the third. With one out in the inning, right fielder Tre Hondras muffed a fly ball, resulting in a double. An RBI single from Chase Malloy put St. Johns on top, and Malloy ended up taking second and third on a wild pitch. He scored the Vikings’ second run on a single to left.
St. Johns extended the lead to three on a series of mistakes from the Patriots. Center fielder Tre Hondras dropped the second fly ball of the inning for CF, allowing runner JJ Sousa to advance. The throw home beat Sousa, but CF catcher Miguel Useche dropped the ball while trying to make the tag to make it 3-0.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, shortstop Nick Calero was drilled in the head by a pitch but stayed in the game. Two batters later, third baseman Jeslyn Whitehead lined a hit that deflected off the St Johns third baseman’s glove and rolled into left field. Calero scored on the play to reduce the lead to 3-1.
CF relievers Seth Baugh, Parker Seay and Alfredo Caraballo held the Vikings off the scoreboard for the next three innings and only gave up one hit between the three of them.
The Pats finally rallied in the seventh inning for three runs to take the lead. They led off the inning with a double and a hit-by-pitch before left fielder Garrett Wallace drove both runners home with a double to tie the game. Kilpatrick made up for his mistake in the field earlier in the game by giving CF a 4-3 lead on an RBI single.
“Garrett Wallace has been our player of the month for the last six weeks,” Smith said. “The guy gets big hits for us every game, hits the ball hard, makes tough outs. Put him in the middle of the lineup, and he’s been completely consistent for the last month.”
The Pats dug deep into their bullpen – no pitcher other than Love was on the mound for more than two innings – but redshirt sophomore Logan Clayton finished off the Vikings with 1.2 scoreless innings. CF’s pitchers collectively had a solid day on the mound, as none of the Vikings’ three runs were earned. The six pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts, four hits and one walk.
“The defensive letdown today, you know, I don’t feel too good about, but I do feel good about pitchers picking us up and making big pitches to get us out of innings and us scoring enough runs to win to cover up for those mistakes,” Smith said.