By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
ENGLEWOOD — Chace Schork’s two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be the difference as Lemon Bay edged North Port, 5-4, in a non-district baseball game Tuesday night.
The Bobcats had taken a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth on Kody Brittain’s RBI single. It was the third time North Port had grabbed the lead during the contest only to have the Manta Rays respond every time.
“The bottom line tonight was that we played well defensively,” Lemon Bay coach Casey Hanrahan said. “Not only did we make routine plays, but we went above and beyond defensively. We made three double plays in pretty intense situations when we really needed it to take the pressure off the pitcher and it happened for us.”
None of the double plays was bigger than the one that ended the game, as first baseman Tyler Kreissler made a leaping grab of a line drive off the bat of Dillon Garrett and tagged first base for the final out. It came after Jacob Treece, the third Lemon Bay pitcher of the night, had walked Nathan Vetter and Brittain to put runners on first and second with one out.
Just before the game ending play, Garrett lined a shot down the left field line that would have scored both runners but was foul by inches.
“You can play the what-if game all night, but I think the reality is when we needed to execute things we didn’t step up and execute,” North Port coach Dan Pavlue said. “Getting a bunt down, moving up on the bases on a ball in the dirt, things like that we didn’t do at the right time and that bit us.”
North Port grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first off Lemon Bay starter Brandon Gielow. Tyler O’Boyle led off with a walk and went to third on a double by Dominic LeFever. Both runners scored on a triple by Charlie Davidson.
The Manta Rays evened it up in the bottom of the frame as North Port starter O’Boyle hit Warnner Rincones with a pitch. Rincones went to second on a ground out, took third on a passed ball and came home on Trey Fields single to left. Kreissler followed with another base hit and Fields scored on a single by Gielow.
North Port took a 3-2 lead in the top of the third as the Bobcats loaded the bases with nobody out on two walks by Kreissler, the second Lemon Bay hurler, and a single by Davidson. LeFever scored on a grounder to third by Alex Partridge.
The Manta Rays tied it again in the bottom of the fourth as Schork led off with a double, broke for third on a ground ball back to the mound and came home on a throwing error.
The Bobcats went ahead again on Brittain’s hit in the fifth, but Fields led off the bottom of the inning by coaxing a walk from North Port reliever Ben Krizen. Kreissler followed with a hit and both runners moved up on a bunt by Josh Sweiderk. Krizen fanned Gielow for the second out, but Schork delivered the base hit that scored both runners and gave Lemon Bay its fifth win in a row.
“Schork has improved unbelievably since last season,” Hanrahan said. “He had a hard time breaking through to being an every day guy and now he’s a guy that we rely on in those tough situations for a big hit. He’s done a great job.”
The only down side for Lemon Bay was its pitchers issuing nine walks after walking 12 batters in their last game.
“That’s not a stat that you like to hear,” Hanrahan said. “But I’m more concerned about whether we have more runs that the other team at the end of the game.”
For North Port, it was a case of missed opportunities.
“Earlier in the game if we executed some things differently and a little bit better, then we’re not even in that situation at the end of the game,” Pavlue said. “But baseball sucks sometimes, and that’s the way it was there.”
LEMON BAY 5, NORTH PORT 4
North Port 201 010 0 — 4 71
Lemon Bay 200 120 X — 5 7 0
WP: Jacob Treece. LP: Ben Krizen. Leading hitters: (LB) Chace Schork 2-3, 2B, R, 2 RBI; Tyler Kreissler 2-3, R; (NP) Charlie Davidson 3-4, 3B, 2 RBI. Records: Lemon Bay 11-8, North Port 10-11.