Five-Run Ninth Leads Palmetto Past South Dade
Road victories at South Dade are tough to come by, especially when it is a district rival that has come to town. Visiting Palmetto survived a back-and-forth battle with the host Bucs on Thursday night, erupting for five runs in the ninth inning to earn a 12-7, extra-inning victory.
The Panthers remain undefeated on the season at 7-0, while moving into sole possession of the top position in 9A-16 with a 3-0 record. The club is off to a strong start to a grueling stretch of games in which it plays nine straight district opponents.
“I have been around a long time, and that was a fun game,” Palmetto manager Danny Smith said. “Every time that you go to South Dade and play you are in for a battle. Those kids have a lot of heart. I have played other places where when it is over that is it, it is over. But both teams tonight were dirty, sweaty, coaches were exhausted, fans were exhausted and the umpires were exhausted. It was fun; and that is how high school baseball should be. That’s what makes the game fun.”
The first eight batters reached base in the top of the ninth inning. Nick Labrada lined an RBI single to left field that drove in Austin Taylor for the winning run, after Taylor reached on a fielder’s choice.
From there the floodgates opened up. Victor Valderrama singled and Alex Castaneda scored on error, before Nick Deegan broke things wide open with a three-run home run to left field that gave the Panthers a comfortable lead.
“I have never seen a ball hit that far in high school baseball in many, many years,” Smith said. “It was the first tie in eight innings that I finally relaxed. When he hit that I just looked at my scorekeeper and said, ‘Thank God’.”
Reliever Matt Turner then returned to the mound for his third inning of work. Although Ricardo Sobalvarro was able to work a one-out walk, Turner dug in and recorded a strikeout followed by an infield grounder that ended the game and preserved the victory. Turner improved to 3-0 while picking up six strikeouts.
It was a night of explosive offense, as both sides combined for 26 hits total. The Panthers took a 3-0 lead in the first and kept building on it, while the Bucs kept chipping away to fight back.
“It is unbelievable how they swing the bats,” Smith noted of South Dade. “Every hitter has got a quality swing and it was tough on my pitching, and it was tough on my fielders. But we did the same thing; we swung the bats just as good as they did. That was what made it a great game. You go from a guy, a legend who coached that baseball team to a new guy who is trying to set his own tone. If that is what I have to deal with for the next ten years, we’re in for a lot of work. He can coach.”
South Dade evened things up to force extra innings with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. Willy Escala reached on an error to start the frame and JC Vigueras walked to put the tying run on base, then gave way to courtesy-runner Richard Sanchez. Sobalvarro followed with a bloop RBI single that plated Escala, and Justin Clements singled to load the bases. An infield ground out from Yamil Chavarria pushed Sanchez in with the tying run.