By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT — Nathan Vetter’s bloop single to right field scored George Garcia with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning as North Port ended its regular season and celebrated Senior Night with a 5-4 victory over Inspiration Academy on Thursday night.
The Lions had tied the score in the top of the seventh thanks to some sloppy defense by the Bobcats. But after the first two hitters were retired in the bottom of the eighth, losing pitcher Josh Losek hit Garcia and Charlie Davidson with pitches, putting runners at first and second with two outs and bringing Vetter to the plate to face reliever Kyle Hayden.
“My mindset was put the ball in play,” Vetter said. “Let the defense make mistakes and let something happen and something did happen.”
The Bobcat catcher’s soft liner fell in between the Lions second baseman and right fielder as Garcia raced home from second base.
“I thought it was going to get caught honestly, but we put the pressure on the defense and it worked out for us,” Vetter said.
“Definitely not the most impressive hit, but in that situation you’ve just got to put the ball in play and see what happens,” North Port coach Dan Pavlue said. “We’ve struggled down the stretch with being able to put teams away. We let them back in and they tied it. It was nice to see us be able to hold them where they were at and come back and eventually win the game.”
The Bobcats took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first without the benefit of a hit, as a walk and two fielding errors by Inspiration loaded the bases with one out and Davidson scored on Dominic LeFever’s sacrifice fly to left.
They made it 2-0 in the second as Patrick Smith walked, was sacrificed to second and came home on Davidson’s single.
The Lions got a two-run double from Matthew Mackey in the top of the third to tie it at 2-2. But North Port went back ahead in the bottom of the inning as Kyle Quinn doubled, stole third, and scored on a base hit by LeFever. Justin Hartshorne doubled and Smith drove in LeFever with a sacrifice fly to center.
The Lions cut it to 4-3 in the fourth, and when starting pitcher Davidson walked the bases full in the fifth, he was replaced by Kody Brittain, who got out of the jam and held Inspiration scoreless until the top of the seventh when two throwing errors allowed the tying run to score and put the go-ahead run at third base with nobody out. But Brittain coaxed a popup to first, a lineout to third and a fly out to right to keep the score deadlocked.
“It’s a great win for our seniors tonight,” Pavlue said. “The guys played hard. I’m proud of them and we’re taking a confident group into the playoffs.”
The Bobcats finished the regular season at 11-14 and will host Charlotte in the first round of the district tournament Tuesday night.
“We kept fighting and we didn’t give up,” Vetter said. “I’m proud of my team. We stayed in it and didn’t give up and won a good game for our seniors.”
NORTH PORT 5, INSPIRATION ACADEMY 4 (8)
Inspiration 002 100 10 — 4 7 2
North Port 112 000 01 — 5 8 2
WP: Kody Brittain LP: Josh Losek. Leading hitters: Dominic LeFever (NP) 2-3, 2B, run, 2 RBI; Nathan Vetter (NP) 2-5, RBI; Matthew Mackey (IA) 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI. Records: North Port 11-14, Inspiration Academy 17-17.