LAKELAND, Fla.—A three-run home run in the seventh inning gave St. Thomas its first and only lead of the night in a showdown between two Top 5 teams.
The fourth-ranked Bobcats came away with a 6-5 win over the third-ranked Fire of Southeastern, rallying from two runs back twice.
Leading 4-3 through six, Jonathan Bermudez gave up a double to left and a walk, but got Elih Marrero to pop out to the infield. On the 121st pitch of the night for the junior, Jackie Urbaez hit a go-ahead home run to give his team the lead.
In the bottom of the inning, the Fire looked to respond with the bases loaded with one out. Ivan Nunez drew a walk to make it a one-run game, but relief pitcher Alex Sarmiento got Dan Valerio to ground into a fielder’s choice, and threw out the runner at third, and Keiner Colmenarez to ground out to first to end the inning.
Southeastern (47-4) got a baserunner in the bottom of the eighth, and the bottom of the ninth against closer Erne Valdes, but were unable to advance them home. Southeastern stranded 10 baserunners on the night, compared to four by the Bobcats.
Three of those four runners stranded came in the top of the first, when St. Thomas had the bases loaded and one out, but Bermudez ended the inning with a strikeout of Nelson Mompierre and a groundout by Oscar Rodriguez.
That shifted momentum the way of the hosts, as leadoff man Manuel Mesa launched the fourth pitch of the game by Orlando Rodriguez over the left field wall for his seventh homer of the season. Two hitters later, Marvin Malone cleared the right field wall with his 14th home run of the season to put the Fire up 2-0.
A two-out home run by Erick Delgado in the top of the second tied the game, but the Fire answered in the bottom of the third, loading the bases and getting a sacrifice fly by Nunez, and an RBI single by Valerio.
The Bobcats cut the lead down to one in the top of the fifth with a two-out RBI double to left by Sergio Lopez.
Bermudez went 6.1 innings, giving up six runs on six hits, walking five, and striking out seven. Jared Crescentini worked 2.2 perfect innings in relief, striking out six of the eight hitters he faced.
Both teams enter Saturday’s doubleheader with an identical 21-1 records in conference play. The winner of the series will claim the regular season championship.
First pitch of the doubleheader is scheduled for noon.