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Cougars Eliminated in Extra Inning Thriller

Clearwater lost in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon, falling to Florida Christian College after a rain suspended game. The Cougars trailed 5-2 when the game resumed where it left off, and kept the game scoreless until the bottom of the seventh when freshman Manny Chmielewski hit a three run home run to tie the game.

The Cougars sent senior Brent Kirkley to the mound to keep their season hopes alive. He worked out of the first inning, after walking two and hitting one, along with giving up a single. The Cougars defense helped him out as freshman catcher Nate Krouse threw out a runner trying to advance to third on a wild pitch, and senior right fielder Zack Weber made a perfect throw to home after a base hit as Krouse put the tag on FCC runner Eric Santamaria.

Kirkley dominated the Suns for the first four innings, striking out seven, and allowing just two hits. He got into some trouble in the fifth, just before the rain came. The Suns were able to put five runs across in the fifth inning before the rain delay, taking a 5-2 advantage.

The Cougars scored first, as junior Chris Caudillo hit a 2 RBI single scoring sophomore Joel Felten and senior Ethan Barba, who both had singled in the inning. CCC left the bases loaded after starting pitcher Brent Hodge struck out Krouse to end the threat.

The rain came in the top of the fifth, with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Suns third baseman, Eric Santamaria, at the plate. Both teams waited out the rain, but only to see the field covered in water, and were told to come back Saturday afternoon to resume the game from where it was halted.

Due to the rain, Clearwater sent freshman Henry Turner to the mound, to relieve sophomore Kyle Baitz who made his twenty-seventh appearance of the year earlier in the inning. Turner induced a ground ball to Chmielewski, who threw the ball to Caudillo at second for the force, to end the inning.

Trailing 5-2, the Cougars threatened right away with back to back singles by Weber and Krouse with one out, but were unable to capitalize. A small threat in the sixth was hushed after sophomore David Edwards hit a hard line drive right at the third baseman for the final out of the inning.

Turner continued to keep the Suns offense in check, holding the score at 5-2, giving the Cougars a chance to come back.

In the bottom of the seventh, and one out, Weber was hit by a pitch, sparking a rally for Clearwater. Krouse followed up with a single, his second of the game, setting the table for Chmielewski. On a 1-0 count, Chmielewski drove a ball over the right field wall, tying the game with a three run home run, giving new life to CCC. The game was sent into extra innings after the next two hitters were retired.

In the first extra frame, FCC put a run across, as Harry Amadeo, who had three hits for the Suns, singled to lead off the inning, and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Suns shortstop Mark Vidal then drove in Amadeo with a single, giving them a 6-5 advantage.

Clearwater continued to fight, as Barba singled with one out to get things going. He stole second on the first pitch, putting himself in scoring position. Edwards then singled, putting runners at the corners with one out. Caudillo then hit a shallow pop up that dropped in, but Edwards was forced out at second, as it appeared to be a ball that should have been caught, so the Cougars were put in the same position, but now with two outs. Barba was unable to score on the play because it was too shallow. Weber was hit by a pitch again, loading the bases for Krouse. He was walked, which forced Barba to score, tying the game at 6-6. Chmielewski, who tied the game with his home run, had a chance to win it, but hit a line drive directly at the Suns shortstop to end the threat.

In the ninth inning, the Suns were able to scratch a run together, as first baseman Vince Tome hit a sacrifice fly that scored Andres Cancio, who singled earlier in the inning, giving them a 7-6 lead.

With their backs against the wall again, sophomore Jefte Velez singled to lead off the bottom half of the frame, and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Joel Felten. With Velez at second and one out, the Cougars had a couple chances to score Velez, but Turner struck out looking and Barba popped out to right field to end the game.

Weber reached base in all five plate appearances, after walking twice, being hit by a pitch twice, and a single in the fifth inning. Caudillo, Edwards, Krouse, and Barba both collected a pair of hits each.

Coach Rebandt said, "We came back out on Saturday after the rain delay and fought hard, but unfortunately we couldn't come away with the win. It was hard to see it end the way it did, but that's what you want at the end of the season, two teams battling it out pitch for pitch."

Clearwater finishes the season 9-32 overall, and will miss seniors Zack Weber, Ethan Barba, Brent Kirkley, and Josh Williams next season. Stay tuned to the website, and our Men's Baseball Facebook fan page for updates throughout the summer and fall!