By SETH STRINGER
Deano Deas' celebration featured a few Hulk flexes at second base.
Cam Sanders celebrated with a few beats to the chest and some chest bumps with NWF State teammates along the first base line.
The former was a prime example of NWF State's timely hitting in the Region 8 tournament. The latter embodied the Raiders' success on the mound, particularly out of the stretch.
Deas' game-winning double in the bottom of the seventh inning capped a three-run frame and backed a gritty effort from starter Brayson Smith and reliever Sanders to lead the Raiders to a 4-3 win over St. Johns River State.
"We survived another day," said NWF State skipper Doug Martin. "The best way to describe the game best was we hung in, we hung in and we hung in. The first four or five innings we didn't do anything. It could have been really easy to get discouraged but we scratched through for a run on a big homer by Ross Goforth and, after they came right back to take a 2-1 lead, we had a big inning in the seventh. Once again we just found a way to win.
"This is a great team win and I'm really proud of the guys in how they're representing the school and our community on the field and off the field. These guys are first class."
St. Johns River State, which eliminated Tallahassee the night before, is now headed home in the double-elimination showcase. NWF State lives to play another day at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, where today at 9 a.m. the eighth-seeded Raiders will face the loser of third-seeded Santa Fe and fourth-seeded Palm Beach State.
What began as 10 teams in the hunt for a national tournament bid is now six. After losing 7-2 to Santa Fe on Saturday, the games from here on out are all must-win for the Raiders.
"The guys are having fun and they don't want this to end," Martin said. "Really we're out of starting pitchers. Cam Sanders was our fourth starter but we needed him today. That means we'll have to throw bullpen guys (today). Before we loaded up on the bus for our trip, I told the guys if we're going to make some noise we'll need some guys to step up. That'll have to be the case from here on out."
The three-run seventh started with singles by Mike Salvatore and Devin Brown. Bryant Harris Jr. followed with an RBI groundout and then Cole Halfacre walked to put men on the corners. After Halfacre moved to second on a wild pitch, Joe Guidry struck out looking. A passed ball allowed Brown to cross home plate and then Deas delivered an RBI double to left-center to put the Raiders up 4-2.
"That was a big hit for us," Martin said.
A big hit that gave Sanders the win.
Sanders pitched three innings in relief of Smith, who struck out seven and allowed just two earned runs on three hits. But he walked seven over six innings.
Sanders walked three more but allowed just one run, an eighth-inning homer the only hit he gave up, and struck out three over three frames.
"We walked 10 batters and they had runners on every inning," Martin said. "They had a lot of chances early in the game to get a big lead on us, but Brayson started making pitches when he had to and got big outs and big strikeouts. Our defense was great behind him, too. Then Cam came in got the job done."