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Walk off Walk By Gates Helps Nature Coast Avoid Defeat

By: Brandon Webster
Nature Coast continued their early season trend of wins and losses, this time rallying from three down in the seventh to walk off 6-5 victors vs Gulf.
Each team plated two runs in the first as Gulf scored on Pedro de Los Rios sacrifice fly and Mike Smith’s RBI single.
In the bottom of the inning, Nature Coast would answer with two runs of their own.
Zach Funkhouser would lead off the inning with a walk and come around to score on JP Gates fielder’s choice. Ryan Lotito who followed Funkhouser with a walk of his own also came around to score on Brandon Santiago’s fielder’s choice.
Gulf would score another run in the third inning on a fielder’s choice to take the lead 3-2.
The game would remain 3-2 into the sixth as both teams got good performances form their
starters.
NCT starter Kyle Mandes pitched four innings of three run ball, while Gulf starter Pedro de
Los Rios exceeded that with four innings of two run ball.
The fifth inning saw both teams go to their bullpen. Nature Coast relied on freshman
pitcher Jonathon McMath who pitched three strong innings.
While McMath gave up two runs in the sixth Nature Coast head coach Frank Vitale was very happy with his performance.
“He has a lot of composure for a ninth grader,” Vitale said. ” He got the outs when we needed.”
Down 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh Nature Coast would again find themselves in the
position of playing catch up.
The Sharks showed patience at the plate with Brandon Frangione working
a walk followed by Santiago single and another walk to Kyle Mandes loaded the bases.
McMath worked a walk with bases loaded to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Funkhouser would have the key hit of the game as he knocked in two runs with a single to tie the game at five.
JP Gates would find himself hitting, or rather watching, with bases loaded in the inning and the game on the line.
Gates walked on four straight balls to give Nature Coast the win 6-5.
Though NCT struggled to put hits together, they did show an ability to get on base especially
second baseman Ryan Lotito who reached base three times in the game and scored a run.
The Sharks turn around and host Central Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 7p.m., weather permitting.
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