Bulldogs rally to take 6-4 win

A pair of late runs behind strong pitching secures victory over Mulberry

Junior Jaxson Rivera reached base four times, scored twice, including the game-winner as Zephyrhills earned a much-needed 6-4 win over visiting Mulberry Tuesday night at John Clements Field.

Rivera, who leads the team in runs scored with 12, came across the plate in the bottom of the sixth to put the Bulldogs up 5-4 and Mark Santiago added an insurance run for the 6-4 advantage.

“We’re all sick and tired of losing,” Rivera said. “We’re all getting together and practicing as hard as we can to win games.”

The Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning when the Bulldogs had a defensive breakdown with four errors in the inning. Rivera, the leadoff batter for the Bulldogs, opened up the bottom of the first with a triple. He added two more hits and was hit by a pitch.

The Bulldogs battled back in the third to tie the score at 3-3. In the fourth, it was Jaxson’s brother Maddox Rivera who put the Bulldogs ahead 4-3 when he scored on a bunt off the bat of Caden Negron.

The Panthers tied the game at four in the sixth before Jaxson Rivera and Mark Santiago put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

The 2021 Bulldogs is made up of strictly underclassmen. There are no seniors on this squad, which puts the leadership roles on the shoulders of the juniors.

“All the juniors have to take the lead,” Jaxson Rivera said. “It’s going well. They all respect us and this team is getting better every day.”

Bryan Santiago was solid on the mound for nearly five innings and left the game with the score tied at 3-3 when Negron came on in relief and earned the win.

“Bryan pitched the ball real well,” said ZHS coach Rusty Guynn. “We just get into a lot of deep counts and walk guys we don’t need to walk.”

The win snaps a two-game losing streak and the Bulldogs improve to 4-8 on the season with seven games remaining.

“We don’t have much of an urgency to get this thing turned around,” Guynn said. “A lot of it is we only played two games in two weeks and you can’t get a rhythm going. It’s hard to come out, but there is no excuse for coming out like that in the first inning. We have to catch two ground balls, we had a guy picked off and we needed to make a catch at the plate.

“We make those plays, Bryan’s pitch count is lower and he probably pitches the whole game. What they don’t understand is what you give away early, comes back and haunts you.”

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