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Gulf Coast State swept in first conference series

Tyler Waldrep

PANAMA CITY — Things were looking up for Gulf Coast.

After being outscored 23-2 in the first three games of the series, the Commodores’ offense exploded from the start to take a 4-0 lead in the first inning on Tuesday night.

“Their starter struggled, then their bullpen guys picked him up,” Gulf Coast coach Mike Kandler said. “That’s what’s supposed to happen. So it is what is.”

Kandler watched his team’s lead dissappear as Northwest Florida State (26-6, 7-1 Panhandle Conference) scored seven runs in the final six innings to secure the 7-5 win and a series sweep over Gulf Coast (18-10, 0-4 Panhandle Conference).

Early on, the Commodores seemed to recapture the offensive firepower they had coming into this series when the team was riding a 10-game winning streak that saw the offense average 10.3 runs per game.

Alex Lozado finished the game with a team-high two RBI for the Commordores when he drove in both Brett Wisely and Jordan Henshaw. Justin Kelley and Evan Johnson also drove in a runner each in the first inning.

Stevie Moffatt was the last Commodore to score on Tuesday when he crossed home plate in the second inning after he took advantage of an error to put himself in scoring position.

The Commodore bats were especially cold in the final three innings of play when seven batters struck out thanks to the combined arms of Jackson Boyd and Connor Stephens.

“All their guys are the same,” Kandler said. “They throw two, three different pitches for strikes and they keep you off balance and they challenge the zone and they threw it well and we’re, right now, we’re not good enough to hit that.”

Sophomore Peyton Knight started the game on the mound for Gulf Coast. He allowed only four hits before getting pulled in the middle of the fourth inning.

He was replaced by fellow sophomore Weston Bizzle, who limited the Raiders to three hits, including both home runs, as he pitched the reaminder of the game.

“He competed hard,” Kandler said of Bizzle. “He did fine. They put a couple of balls up into the wind at very good times.”

Most of the Raiders’ runs came in the fourth inning when they sent six runners around the bases to take a 6-5 lead over the Commodores.

Kaden Polcovich led the Raiders with a game-high three RBI, all of which came when he hit his fifth home run this year in the fourth inning.

“Polcovich clutched up and hit that home run,” Kandler said. “That’s what he does. He’s a good player, that’s why he’s going to Oklahoma State and some of these other guys aren’t going to be able to play in a league like the Big 12.”

Gulf Coast will hit the road to face Pensacola State on Thursday at 5 p.m.

“You just gotta put it behind you and you gotta keep playing and you gotta keep competing,” Kandler said. “You can’t dwell on it too long, but you obviously are going to have to make some adjustments. You’re going to be a whole lot better at what you’re trying to do if you want to beat anybody.”

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