AVON PARK – The South Florida Panthers grabbed the early lead and held on for a 5-3 win over Webber International University on Wednesday night.
The win improved South Florida’s record to 3-6 on the season.
“We have been playing a little bit better here as of late,” said South Florida Head Coach Rick Hitt. “We did a good job offensively early. We had a little bit of trouble when Webber’s guy settled in. We hit some balls right at some guys. I thought Ronny Hinton pitched very well tonight in his second outing as a starter. His command was much better than it was early on and you can tell he has been working on his game. He made some adjustments with Coach (Matt) Schaeffer and that is good to see. Good for him and we are glad to see that.”
The Panthers took the early lead in the bottom of the first as Zeddric Burnham knocked a base hit to left field and stole second base and P.J. Cimo stepped to the plate and launched the ball over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.
Casey Asman drew a walk, Case Hannum singled with Asman moving to third and Mike Bessell plated Asman with a ground out to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
South Florida expanded its lead in the third inning. Cimo hit a rope down the first-base-line, stole stole base, took third on a passed ball and Hannum hit a fielder’s choice to score Cimo for a 4-0 advantage.
“We played well tonight,” said Cimo. “We squared up some balls and our pitchers threw a lot of strikes. I tried to stay confident, believed in my ability and played hard tonight. We got off to a rough start this season but we are pulling together and starting to win some games. We are going to come out everyday, play as hard as we can and try to get it done.”
Gerig Blackman, former Sebring Blue Streak standout and South Florida player, came into pitch for Webber against the Panthers in the bottom of the seventh.
Webber rallied in the top of the eighth inning. The Warriors took advantage of Panther pitcher Connor Gleeson struggling on the mound.
Webber cut the deficit to 4-3, but Edwin Serrano came in as relief and stopped the rally.
South Florida added an insurance run in the bottom of the frame. Bessell drew a walk and Avon Park High graduate A’Darius Council came into run for Bessell.
Sebring High graduate Hunter Martinez stepped to the plate and rocketed the ball into the left-center field gap for a double with Council advancing to third. Carter Dahl scored Council with a ground out to give the Panthers a 5-3 lead.
Webber went down in the top of the ninth inning to give South Florida the victory.
“We appreciate the nice crowd on a Wednesday night,” said Hitt. “We appreciate the ladies of Panther Athletics being here. It was a nice recognition of them tonight. I am happy for the guys and we are still plodding along here, trying to figure ourselves out. We will keep working at it until we figure things out more consistently. I am happy for the guys they played well.”
South Florida is back on the diamond today with a 1 p.m. game against College of Central Florida. The Panthers host Santa Fe College on Saturday in a doubleheader that begins at noon.
There will be Bar-B-Que lunches available for purchase on Saturday to support Panther athletics.