They fought back for a second time.
And this time, they made sure their advantage with the last at-bat would net the desired result.
Tyler Rocklein’s walkoff RBI single in the 10th inning lifted State College of Florida over Palm Beach State College 6-5 in a winners bracket baseball game in the FCCAA/NJCAA Gulf District state tournament Friday at Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium.
“The kids really battled, I tell you, they didn’t quit,” Manatees head coach Tim Hill said over the phone. “It was an exciting ballgame to walk in and play. They had a lot of heart and kept battling and battling and battling.”
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SCF broke a 1-1 tie when Austin Smith had a two-out, two-run single in the second inning.
Then, after the Panthers took a 4-3 lead, the Manatees fought right back.
SCF right-fielder Hunter Ovens (2-for-5, two runs, double) reached on a fielder’s choice when the Panthers couldn’t turn a double play in the eighth. He stole second base, then attempted to swipe third and scored when PBSC’s catcher, Dante Rosenberg threw the ball away.
The Panthers regained the lead once more in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly to shallow left that Rocklein charged, but his bullet to home was just a bit late.
No more damage came in the frame, which set up the dramatic finish for SCF.
Rocklein led off the ninth with a hit by pitch and advanced to second on an L.B. Dantzler sacrifice bunt.
Then the Panthers turned the ball over to Player of the Year Ben Carhart, who vacated third base, which meant right fielder Cameron Mc-Griff took over that spot — a move that proved costly.
Rocklein headed to third after Colton Speed bounced back to Carhart.
That meant No. 9 hitter Paul Stortini stood in the batter’s box as the last chance for SCF to tie the game. He grounded to McGriff, whose throw sailed high, which allowed Rocklein to score.
Manatees closer Bobby Dixon worked around a two-out jam by stranding two baserunners with a strikeout in the top of the 10th to earn the win as SCF put the game away in its half.
Anthony Figliolia (2-for-5) led off with a single to right off Eddie Cody. Carhart, who went 2-for-5 and entered with a .467 average, left the rubber to return to third base for the 10th.
Figliolia moved to second after the Panthers’ pickoff attempt from the catcher went awry.
He then raced around third and scored the game-winner when Rocklein’s base hit glanced off Carhart’s mitt and trickled into the outfield.
Austin Chubb also collected two hits to pace the Manatees’ offense.
SCF faces the winner of St. Pete College and Miami-Dade, a game that finished after press time Friday.
That game is slated for 7 p.m. today, with the winner becoming the last unbeaten to remain in the state tourney.