SANFORD, Fla.- In the final game of the best of three series, the DeLand Suns and Winter Park Diamond Dawgs had to lay it all on the line with a trip to the Championship game up for grabs. Both teams did just that, with the Suns prevailing in a wild, 8-7 victory Tuesday night.
“That was a tremendous baseball game to watch as a fan,” head coach Rick Hall said after the game. “Both teams battled hard, but it was our turn to get some breaks out there, and some guys stepped up late in the game.”
Going into the top of the eighth inning, it was a 3-1 ball game in favor of the Diamond Dawgs. In the top half of the inning, the Suns load the bases for the fourth time in the game, but this time they took advantage. With no outs, Brent Nelson (Valdosta State) doubled down the left field line to bring home two runs, tying the game. The next two runs of the game were scored on a single from Bryan Adametz (North Carolina State), giving them a 5-3 lead, their first of the game.
Winter Park responded by loading the bases with a double, walk, and an error. A bases loaded walk cut the Suns lead to 5-4 in the eighth inning. A groundout scored the tying run, and then a throwing error allowed the go-ahead runner to score, giving them a 7-6 lead.
DeLand, with their backs against the wall, loaded the bases once again in the ninth, the fifth time in the game. Brent Nelson came through again with a two-run single, giving the Suns the lead, 7-6. Nelson finished the game with four RBI for the Suns. Adametz came up with two outs and reached on a bases-loaded walk, extending the lead to 8-6, which turned out to be a very important run.
“I knew I had to put the ball in play in anyway possible,” Nelson said after the game. “After the first at-bat, I took the same approach, just try and get the runs across the plate.”
In the bottom of the ninth, Daniel Sweet (Polk State) opened with a single. The next batter grounded out, allowing the runner to advance to second. A fly out to center put the Suns one out away from a win. The next batter swung at the first pitch and hit a fly ball, but it was dropped, allowing the runner on second to score. After a walk to put runners on first and second, a fielder’s choice groundout ended the game.
Reily Monkman (Seminole State) pitched the final two innings of the game, picking up the win for the Suns. He gave up four runs, two earned, while walking five. After the eighth inning, Monkman went out with the mindset to just throw strikes.
“I know I had to keep the ball low,” Monkman said. “They are a good team and I could not miss because they can hit.”
Jake Meiers (FAU) got the start for the Suns tonight. He pitched 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits, three runs, walking two and striking out two. He was strong on the mound, but did not get the clutch hit he needed from his offense.
“Jake came in highly motivated tonight,” Hall said. “He poured his heart into this game and did a fantastic job. He put us in a position to stay in the game.”
Aaron Adams (West Virginia Wesleyan) pitched just as effectively for Winter Park, going 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits, one run, and struck out six batters. It could have been worse, but he got out of two bases-loaded jams.
The Suns had other opportunities in the game to score runs, loading the bases in the second and fourth innings, but came up empty handed. Meiers would have liked to see them score, but he knew he couldn’t let that affect him on the mound.
“I just had to keep fighting,” Meiers said. “I knew they would come around, so I had to do my best to keep them in the game.”
The Diamond Dawgs got the scoring started in the fifth inning. After a single and a sacrifice bunt, AC Carter (Seminole State) brought home the first run of the game with a single. Michael Basil (Indiana) brought home the second run with a single of his own.
Winter Park appeared to be threatening in the sixth after getting the first two batters on base. However, Meiers caught a liner with the runners going, and started the 1-3-4 triple play.
In the seventh inning, the Suns loaded the bases for the third time in the game. The Suns got their first run with a sacrifice fly from Bryan Adametz (NC State). After a walk loaded the bases again with two outs, the Suns left the runners stranded again.
AC Carter (Seminole State) hit a deep home run to center, extending the Winter Park lead to 3-1 in the seventh inning.
The DeLand Suns will meet up with the Leesburg Lightning on Thursday at Tropicana Field to decide the 2012 FCSL Championship. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., and Tim Stoops (UMass) will get the start for the Suns.
Robert Edgcomb (Stetson University)