Bucs Drop Heartbreaker In State Quarters

Justin Thomas (Photo by Tom Hagerty)
Justin Thomas (Photo by Tom Hagerty)
TAMPA, Fla.- The #19 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers lost a seesaw battle Friday night in the FCSAA State Tournament Quarterfinals, watching a late lead evaporate as the #5 Northwest Florida State Raiders walked them off 8-7 to send the Bucs to the elimination bracket where their season will be on the line on Saturday. 
The Bucs were the first on the board Friday as Nate Earley doubled and Jared Davis singled to put runners on the corners for FSW with nobody out in the 2nd ahead of an RBI single from Cooper Clapp and an error from Northwest to score Davis all the way from first to put the Bucs in front 2-0. 
The lead didn't last long though as the Raiders answered with a solo home run to start the bottom of the 2nd and scored their second run of the inning on a groundout to knot the score up at 2 after two. 
The Bucs took the lead right back in the top of the 3rd as Justin Thomas launched a solo shot out to left to put FSW back in front 3-2 at the end of three. 
Northwest put two on with one out in the 4th as they tried to level things back up, but back to back strikeouts from Landen Burch on the mound for FSW shut the rally down and kept the Bucs up by one 3-2. 
FSW had a chance of their own to extend on their lead in the top of the 5th as they put a pair of runners on with one out, but a double play brought the threat to end and it would cost them in the bottom half as Northwest tied the score on a wild pitch to make it 3-3 at the end of five.  
The Bucs had traffic again in the 6th as they saw four hitters reach base, but weren't able to score after a runner got cut down at the plate and a pair of strikeouts looking brought the inning to a close with the score still tied at 3. 
A leadoff double for the Raiders in the 6th turned into a run to put them back in front 4-3 and they added to their lead against the FSW bullpen in the 7th , scoring two runs on two hits and three Buccaneer walks to extend their advantage to 6-3. 
The Bucs kept fighting as Clapp walked with one out and Eric Blair doubled into the corner two batters later to put a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs in the inning. Salvador Alvarez hit a ground ball back up the middle with eyes on it to bring home both runners to get the Bucs back to within one and later in the inning Luca Danos singled back up the middle with the bases loaded to bring home two more to give FSW the lead 7-6. 
It remained a 7-6 game in favor of FSW as the teams went to the 9th when a trio of hit batters allowed the Raiders to load the bases without having to swing the bat in the inning. An infield single brought the equalizer home and two pitches later a sacrifice fly to left brought the winner plateward for Northwest as they walked the Bucs off 8-7. 
The Bucs lost despite banging out 12 hits, just their third defeat this season when recording double digit hits.  Thomas led the offense, going 3-5 with a homer from the leadoff spot while Clapp was 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI and Davis had two hits and a run scored. Brandon Gonsalves suffered the loss on the mound for the Bucs, allowing two runs and two hits in 1 2/3 innings to fall to 5-3 on the year. 
FSW falls to 37-20 on the year while Northwest improves to 34-13. 
The Bucs will now play with their season on the line Saturday at 1 PM when they take on #10 Indian River in the first elimination game of the weekend. Northwest advances to the tournament semifinal where they will take on Panhandle Conference rival Chipola.