LAKELAND, Fla. (May 10, 2013) - Despite a 45-win campaign, Panhandle Conference Championship and No. 1 national ranking, Tallahassee Community College suddenly finds itself facing elimination.
Hillsborough Community College's Ryan Etsell threw a four-hit shutout as the Hawks stunned Tallahassee, 3-0, in opening round play at the NJCAA Gulf District/FCSAA State Baseball Tournament at Lakeland's Joker Marchant Stadium.
Tallahassee (45-9) falls into Saturday's 10 a.m. losers' bracket game, where it will face another conference champion bit by the upset bug on Friday - Mid-Florida Conference champ St. Johns River State College.
Palm Beach State College knocked off St. Johns River State, 6-2, in Friday's first game.
Etsell and a quartet of Tallahassee pitchers turned Friday's game into somewhat of a pitchers' duel. Tallahassee never managed more than one hit in any inning, although it had a golden opportunity to put runs on the board in its first at-bat.
Leadoff hitter Anthony Torres reached base on an error by Hillsborough third baseman Joshua Botts then Etsell plunked Clay Fenwick with one out. A double steal moved both runners into scoring position for FCSAA Baseball Player of the Year Trent Higginbothem.
But Etsell struck out Higginbothem then retired Tyler York on a ground out to second to escape the jam. The Eagles only got two runners as far as second base the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, Tallahassee starter Taylor Wright was the tough-luck loser. He scattered six hits over 5.1 innings and only one of the Hawks' three runs were earned.
With two outs and nobody on in the third, Botts reached base when Fenwick and second baseman Chad Mabini collided on a pop up to shallow right field. The Hawks wasted no time taking advantage.
The next batter, Zachary Santos, homered over the left field wall to give Hillsborough a 2-0 lead.
Fenwick, who was shook up on the collision with Mabini, stayed in the game and even came to the plate in the bottom half of the third but exited after flying out to left to end the inning.
According to team trainer Davy Young, Fenwick, who came into the game batting a team-high .434, suffered a sprained ankle. The severity of the injury is unknown and Fenwick is listed as a game-time decision for Saturday.
Jhalen Jackson hit a first-pitch homer off Wright to start the fourth and extend the Hawks' lead to 3-0.
Hillsborough managed only two hits the rest of the game and went hitless over the final 3.2 innings against relievers Jared Stanley, Dan VanSickle and Ethan Bornstein, but the damage was done.
Jackson (2-for-4) and Trevor Freeman (2-for-3) had two hits apiece for Hillsborough.
Torres, Kevin Cruz, James Abbatinozzi and Matt Bahnick had Tallahassee's four hits, all singles.