A cluster of St. Petersburg Catholic fans erupted in applause Tuesday evening as word made its way from the other side of the state to the school's baseball complex. SPC's boys basketball team had won a double-overtime thriller against Melbourne Florida Air Academy.
The news at home, however, wasn't so exhilarating.
After scoring twice to knot the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, SPC fell to visiting Clearwater Central Catholic 5-2 in eight innings. It was the Class 3A, District 11 opener for two teams expected to battle for the title.
CCC third baseman Ryan Acosta played hero, drilling a three-run home run to right-center field in the top of the eighth to put the Marauders (1-1 overall, 1-0 in district) ahead for good.
"I'm always thinking, Go big, or don't swing at all,"' said Acosta, a junior third baseman who finished 3-for-4 and drove in all five of CCC's runs.
The Marauders, who took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, rode a sterling pitching effort by side-arming right-hander Ryan Weber into the sixth inning. That's when a two-out fielding error by CCC shortstop Sam Mende allowed two runs to score, tying the game at 2.
But the Marauders put two aboard to start the eighth - Brett McKean walked and Riley Cooper reach on an error - and Acosta drove them home with his opposite-field blast.
Weber left after six innings, allowing two runs, neither earned, on six hits. He struck out nine and walked two. Reliever Joe McLemore threw two scoreless innings to earn the win.
SPC lefty David Burns, a Stetson recruit, equaled Weber's performance, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits in seven innings. He had 10 strikeouts and went 3-for-4 at the plate.
"He's a great pitcher, and he had an outstanding performance, but the outcome didn't work out for him," said SPC coach Charlie Guastella, whose team fell to 2-2 overall, 0-1 in district play.