By Bruce Robins, Sun Correspondent
NORTH PORT – Brandin Muniz’s single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Dominic LeFever from third base as North Port closed its regular season with a 3-2 win over Palmetto in a non-district baseball game Thursday night.
The Bobcats and Tigers were tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the seventh when LeFever led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch from reliever Byron Bickford. Logan Polston laid down a sacrifice bunt, and when Tigers first baseman Kyle Quiles threw to second base to try to get LeFever overrunning the bag, the wild throw rolled into left field, allowing LeFever to go to third. It was Palmetto’s sixth error of the night.
Kennedy Stephens struck out looking, but with two strikes, Muniz punched a ground ball in between first and second base for the walk-off hit.
“I really wasn’t trying to do anything much,” Muniz said. “Obviously you’re thinking in the back of your head that you want to get the game winning hit, but he got ahead of me in the count and at that point I was swinging at anything that was close. I was not trying to go down looking, so I happened to get a dribbler through the right side and it ended up working out.”
“It was great to see and a big confidence booster for him,” North Port coach Dan Pavlue said. “It was a good swing with two strikes, shortening up and letting the baseball get to the zone and hitting the baseball the other way. It didn’t have to be pretty but it got the job done. So I’m very happy for him and happy for the team.”
“It worked out pretty well instead of trying to pull everything like I normally do,” Muniz said. “It actually worked out going opposite side one time.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third when North Port took a 1-0 lead. Charlie Davidson reached on an error by Tiger shortstop Harrison Thiel, stole second, and scored on Nathan Vetter’s double to left. The Bobcats loaded the bases with one out thanks to two more Palmetto errors, but couldn’t add any more runs.
Defensive lapses by North Port let Palmetto tie the score in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Bobcat starter Ben Krizen struck out Colton Vincent and should have been out of the inning, but Vincent reached first on a passed ball. Austin Hart reached on an error and Gunner Womer’s single drove home Vincent.
Palmetto (14-11) took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when DH Jacob Josey’s fly ball down the right field line fell in for a triple and starting pitcher Logan Frasier followed with an RBI single.
The Bobcats (11-14) got the equalizer in the bottom of the sixth as Dillon Garrett led off with a base hit, was sacrificed to second by Tyler O’Boyle, and went to third on Brandon Cross’s bunt single. Garrett came home on Davidson’s single to right.
Reliever Charlie Topp held Palmetto hitless over the final two innings, setting the stage for Muniz’s seventh inning heroics.
“The kids played hard tonight,” Pavlue said. “It was good to see going into the post-season to be able to get a victory. We got a lot of different guys in the game and they all stepped up and played hard. They had the right attitude tonight and they did enough to get a win.”
Added Muniz: “It definitely feels good always to win a ball game. Especially that bunt put down that Dom got to third on with aggressive base running, so a routine single wins the game.”
NORTH PORT 3, PALMETTO 2
Palmetto 000 110 0 — 2 4 6
North Port 001 001 1 — 3 8 3
WP: Charlie Topp; LP: Byron Bickford. Leading hitters: (NP) Dillon Garrett 2-3, run; Charlie Davidson 1-4, run, RBI; Nathan Better 1-3, 2B, RBI; Brandin Muniz 1-4, RBI; (P) Jacob Josey 2-4, 3B, run. Records: Palmetto 14-11; North Port 11-14.