Pearce Leads Eagles Past Hillsborough

Pearce Leads Eagles Past Hillsborough

With playoff implications hanging on every pitch, the Polk State College baseball team notched a big victory Saturday with a 4-2 win over Hillsborough Community College in Winter Haven.

The Eagles (31-15/12-13), who trailed Hillsborough 2-0 after the first inning, earned the Suncoast Conference tiebreaker over the Hawks (19-25/11-12).

Both teams are battling for second place in the Suncoast Conference and the final playoff spot to be given to the second-place team as the season winds down.

"This was a huge game," said Polk State College coach Al Corbeil. "It keeps our chances alive."

Polk pitcher Matt Pearce (Bonita Springs/5-0) recovered after twisting his ankle on the second batter of the game to earn the complete-game victory. 

Pearce had fallen while fielding a bunt by Hillsborough's Josh Botts with a runner on second base in the top of the first inning.

He slowly got up and resumed play, giving up two runs on four hits in the inning.

However, Pearce held the Hawks scoreless on three hits the rest of the way while his team dug out of the hole.

The freshman, energized when his team took a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth, fanned the side in the seventh.

He also got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth with two strikeouts and a ground out. He fanned nine in the game. He walked one. 

"That's as good as a performance as I've seen here," Corbeil said. "For a big game, that's a big-game pitcher. To see him stumble — I thought he might be down for the game, and have a chance to win it — he wanted it today. He was on. He had four pitches. His arm was loose. To pitch eight scoreless after that is pretty impressive."

The Eagles tied the game with two runs on two hits in the bottom of the third.

Paul Roundtree, who has switched to hitting left-handed to take advantage of his speed, celebrated his birthday with a leadoff single through the infield.

"It was an experiment that worked out pretty good," Corbeil said.

Sophomore Brett Jones (Plant City) followed with a run-scoring double to center field.

With one out, freshman Daniel Sweet (Mississippi) lofted a sacrifice fly, scoring Jones, evening the score 2-2.

Eagles Erik Hindmon (Ocala) and Joe Novis (Lakeland) rapped back-to-back hits in the fourth, but a double play ended the threat.

The Eagles broke through in the sixth.

With one out, Eagle Cody DeNoyelles (Windermere) reached second on an error. Joe Novis (Lakeland) belted a single to right field. 

Sophomore Matt Singletary (Plant City) brought the bench to its feet, drilling a two-run, two-out single to center field in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-2 Polk lead.

He had an outstanding game," Corbeil said of his third baseman. "He played the heck out of third."

The Eagles have three games left this season.

The Hawks have five games remaining. Two of those games are rainouts.  

Those rainout games will factor in if playoff implications deem them necessary.

Polk travels to St. Petersburg Monday. 

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