BRADENTON -- Roderick “Rock Shoulders lifted the baseball into foul territory, destined to pop out.
Instead, the ball found grass between two Tallahassee Community College infielders.
Shoulders was given a second chance.
He didn’t disappoint the State College of Florida faithful.
The former Brandon High standout blasted a two-run home run to arm the Manatees with a two-run lead.
Add in a late insurance run with the strong efforts from pitchers Nick Goody and Casey Eskew, and SCF took the opener of its three-game set with the Eagles 4-2 at Robert C. Wynn Field on Friday night.
It’s the fourth straight victory for the Manatees (10-4), after a three-game slide sent them near the .500 mark.
“The last time that happened, against Chipola, I popped up to third and then the next pitch I hit a home run,” said Shoulders about the momentum-shifting dinger, which was the first one at home in 2011. “After I popped up and he missed, I just thought about that. And then it happened. And every time I pop up or something like that, coach over at first base always says, ‘Make it hurt.’ And that’s what I try to do.”
Goody said he didn’t have his best stuff.
He could have fooled everyone in attendance -- not just the opposing batters.
The right-hander struck out 10 batters against two walks, while scattering three hits over 71/3 innings.
Aside from a seventh-inning home run, Goody gave up just one hit that left the infield.
The LSU-bound sophomore from Orlando mainly used a fastball and slider in baffling the Eagles.
“It’s one of those things when you don’t have any pitches going, and you just gotta pitch,” Goody said. “Instead of just going out there. ... I might have had a fastball one inning, a slider one inning. Just was missing bats and had a pretty good defense for the most part.”
After getting close to 120 pitches for the night, Goody (3-0) departed in favor of Eskew.
The 6-foot former Sarasota Sailor walked in a run, but was able to settle down.
With one out and the bases still loaded in the eighth inning, Eskew sent the next two batters down swinging including Kyle Marks, who had hit the solo homer off Goody in his previous at bat.
“It looked like Tallahassee could have just blown it open at that point,” SCF head coach Tim Hill said. “But Casey with the walk, and then he comes in and strikes the next two kids out ... it kept everybody on their seats and in the ballpark.”
Then another key moment developed with the Manatees pushing across a vital insurance run to take away the Eagles (8-6) ability to bunt in the ninth inning after a leadoff single.
Brandon Patterson jumpstarted things in the bottom of the eighth with a double down the left-field line.
Colton Speed followed two batters later with an RBI infield single.
The Manatees return to the diamond at 2 p.m. today against the same opponents for the second game in the three-game set.