TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (April 13, 2013) - Tallahassee Community College's magical baseball season hit another high note on Saturday as the Eagles defeated arch-rival Chipola College, 3-1, to claim the program's sixth Panhandle Conference Championship and first since 2009.
With the win, Tallahassee (40-6) notched its seventh 40-win season and improved to a sterling 14-2 in league play, six full games ahead of second-place Gulf Coast State College (8-8) with four games still remaining on the schedule.
Chipola (29-19, 6-8), who is trying to chase down Gulf Coast State for the PC's lone remaining postseason berth, didn't lose any ground on the Commodores, who fell to Northwest Florida State College, 11-5.
The Eagles have won in a variety of ways during their march to "No. 6." On Saturday, however, they relied on a couple of staples of the "Grand Old Game" - pitching and defense.
Sophomore Taylor Wright, who hadn't taken the mound since March 24, got the start and promptly delivered one of the Eagles' more clutch performances in recent memory. He pitched 6.2 shutout innings before a pair of singles, sandwiched around a passed ball, allowed the Indians to score their lone run of the game.
"I wanted to come out, do the best I could and give the team a chance to win," said Wright. "I was trying to keep the ball down and locate my pitches well."
Wright (5-0) only retired the side in order in one inning, but mixed up his pitches well enough to keep the Indians' batters guessing most of the day. He scattered eight hits but only allowed one runner to reach third base prior to the two-out rally in the seventh.
Luis Tunon singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. He scored on Danny Mars' single to center.
Mars and Gibson both went 2-for-4 for Chipola.
Wright's counterpart, Carlos Misell, was equally effective. He pitched into the eighth and allowed only six hits but Tallahassee took advantage of three Chipola errors.
First-inning doubles by Chad Mabini and Clay Fenwick got the Eagles on the scoreboard. When Trent Higginbothem's routine grounder squirted between the legs of second baseman Chase Nyman, Fenwick rounded third and scored the second run of the inning.
Aided by another error - and two more miscues that didn't land in the "E" column - the Eagles extended their lead an inning later.
After leadoff hitter Kevin Cruz was retired on a liner to center, John Price, Jr. struck out but a passed ball charged to catcher Christian Correa allowed him to reach first.
The next batter, James Abbatinozzi, got a reprieve when his pop foul down the right field line glanced off the glove of a hard-charging Cameron Gibson. Rather than two outs and a runner at first, the Eagles eventually had an opportunity to put Price, Jr., on the move on a payoff pitch to Abbatinozzi.
A strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play looked like a sure thing when Misell struck out Abbatinozzi and Price, Jr., had nowhere to go on a delayed steal. But Correa's throw one-hopped Nyman at second and skipped away into right field, allowing Price, Jr., to trot into second standing up.
Matt Bahnick followed with a run-scoring single to left and the Eagles led 3-0.
Tallahassee managed only three hits over the final six innings, but the damage was done.
Six different players collected hits for the Eagles. Fenwick, Higginbothem and Bahnick had the Eagles' three RBI.
Tallahassee will continue the PC schedule on Monday when it hosts Pensacola State College at 5 p.m.