Rivera's Walk Off Highlights Opening Day Split For New Look Bucs

Sergio Rivera (Photo by Roy Allen)
Sergio Rivera (Photo by Roy Allen)
AUBURNDALE, Fla.- To say that the Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers are a new look squad this season would be an understatement.  Of the 28 players on their 2023 roster, a grand total of zero suited up for the Bucs a season ago. After dropping a 5-3 decision to reigning FCSAA State Champs and 4th ranked Central Florida in their opener Friday, the Bucs stormed back from six down for a 7-6 extra innings win over Pasco-Hernando in their second game of the day, capped off by a walk off single from newcomer Sergio Rivera in his FSW debut. 
The Bucs season got off to a quick start as Anthony Westbrook launched a solo shot to left against his former squad in the top of the 1st to give FSW an early 1-0 lead.  
#4 Central Florida responded right away though, getting a home run of their own, a grand slam, as well as a fifth run in the bottom of the 1st to give the Patriots a 5-1 lead after an entertaining 1st.  
Things slowed down from there as the game didn't see another run scored until the 5th when Westbrook came up big again with a two out, two run single up the middle to get the Bucs back to within two at 5-3. 
The Bucs bullpen tossed their fourth straight scoreless frame in the 5th and FSW had a chance to tie things up in the top of the 6th as they loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a hit batter, but a pop up to left ended the threat and kept Central Florida in front 5-3. 
FSW had one last chance in the 7th, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out after a Westbrook walk, but they couldn't come through with the big swing in the final frame and therefore fell 5-3 in their 2023 opener to the Pats.  
Westbrook finished 2-3 with a homer and three RBIs in the win while Joel Gardner and Austin Douglas each had a hit and reached base twice in their debuts.  Jahir Perez suffered the loss on the mound in his first outing with the Bucs, going just one inning and allowing five runs, four earned to fall to 0-1 on the year.  Lucas Hartman put together a big performance out of the Buccaneer bullpen, tossing four hitless innings, striking out two to allow the Bucs to battle back into things. 
The Bucs had no time to sulk as they were right back at it later in the afternoon as they squared off against Pasco-Hernando.  
The Bucs offense was cold early and the Bobcats took advantage as FSW walked the bases loaded in the top of the 3rd and Pasco came through with a hit and a sac fly to score three times and take an early 3-0 lead.  
Another free pass started a Pasco rally in the 5th as the Bobcats put together another three run frame with a walk, two hits, and a sac fly to double their lead to 6-0.  
Just when it looked like the Bucs were left for dead, here came the Purple and Aqua. 
Aries Samek got the Bucs on the board with a one out RBI single in the 6th and Douglas went after the first pitch he saw with the bases loaded later in the inning and sent it flying over the left field wall for a grand slam to get FSW back to within one at 6-5 with one swing of the bat.  
Henry Hardie kept the Bobcats at bay in the top of the 7th and Samek tied the game with a sac fly to center to score Sergio Rivera from third to make it 6-6 at the end of regulation. 
Adam Dowler came on out of the Buccaneer bullpen in the 8th and worked a quick 1-2-3 frame with a pair of strikeouts to keep the game tied at 6.  
Douglas led off the FSW 8th with his third hit of the day and moved up 90 feet on Yariel Diaz's first career hit with one out in the inning.  Two batters later with two on and two out, Rivera lined a single to left, bringing Douglas home and giving the Bucs a 7-6 walk off winner. 
The Bucs banged out 10 hits in the win led by Douglas who finished 2-4 with a homer, four RBIs and a pair of runs scored and Rivera who was 2-3 with four stolen bases and the game winning RBI.  Dowler earned his first win as a Buc out of the bullpen, tossing a scoreless 8th with a pair of strikeouts to move to 1-0 on the year.  
The Bucs will be right back at it on Saturday in Auburndale as they take on #10 Chipola in a 10 AM start before battling former Suncoast Conference rival Polk State at 1 PM.