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Eastern Florida Closes Regular Season With Dramatic 10th-Inning Victory; State Tournament Play-in Game on Monday

April 23, 2014 - What a way to finish the regular season.

Christian Diaz belted a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the 10th inning on Wednesday lifting Eastern Florida's baseball team past Palm Beach State College 8-6 at Bruce Bochy Field on the Melbourne Campus.

Diaz's third hit of the day and his third and fourth runs batted in capped an Eastern Florida comeback from a 5-1 second-inning deficit. The victory gave Eastern Florida a 12-12 record in the Florida College System Activities Association Southern Conference. It also earned the Titans a season split, 3-3, with Palm Beach.

Palm Beach also finished at 12-12 but earned second place and an automatic bid to the state tournament in Lakeland in May by holding the tiebreaker, a better record against first-place Miami Dade, 2-4 compared to 1-5 for the Titans.

Eastern Florida had to settle for third place and faces a state tournament play-in game at 5 p.m. Monday at South Florida State College in Avon Park against the third-place Suncoast Conference team which has yet to be determined. Three Suncoast teams – State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota, St. Petersburg College and Hillsborough Community College are locked in a fight for second and third place and the race could come down to the weekend.

Eastern Florida head coach Jeff Tam is hoping the momentum gained on Wednesday carries over.

"We dropped three games in the eighth, ninth inning with the lead so we seemed to be a little bit depressed, a little down on themselves but they battled hard today, they fought," he said. "They had that warrior mentally today. Come Monday we've got to get it done.

"This time our pitching actually stood up when we made the change and they kept the game close. That's what it takes, it takes a full team effort."

Starter John Piriz allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings. He was spelled by Nick Sucarichi who held Palm Beach in check by allowing just one run in 5 1/3 innings for a 6-3 Palm Beach lead.

Spot reliever Miguel Castellanos pitched a scoreless eighth inning and yielded to Matt Yates in the ninth. Yates set the stage for Eastern Florida to tie the game 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth when Austin Leeney, who had doubled and stole third and scored on Austin Pereira's second sacrifice fly of the game giving him two crucial runs batted in.

Yates allowed one hit in the 10th but kept a clean sheet and turned things over to the Titans' big bats.

Nick Capra opened the 10th with a single for his second hit of the night, Francisco Cruz, who in the fifth inning reached over the right field wall to snatch what would have been a two-run homer, fouled out and Diaz then smacked a hanging curve ball for the victory.

"In that situation maybe a different lineup coming up maybe we bunt him (Capra) over and play for a base hit but those guys can flat out hit," Tam said.

"We've been hitting all year and it would be a good time for us to keep hitting and have some quality pitching."

Diaz concurred on the victory giving the Titans momentum.

"It was huge, to get momentum going into that huge playoff game," he said. "It really puts a fire under us. We really want to go states, we think we deserve to be at states."

Eastern Florida finished the season with a 27-17 overall record. Palm Beach finished at 28-21.