Panthers sweep Wildcats, remain perfect in region play


Katie Linkner

Senior Dawson Sweatt started on the mound for Starr’s Mill. The Panther desense did not give up an earned run in the entire series against Whitewater.

Starr’s Mill baseball starting the season at 3-5 put an added emphasis on region play, especially against a challenging opponent just up Highway 85.

Coming just four days after a 5-0 loss to the North Gwinnett Bulldogs, the Panthers swept the three-game series against the Whitewater Wildcats, not giving up a single earned run, and advancing to 5-0 in the region.

The Panthers won the first game of the series in extra innings 1-0, tallying 20 total strikeouts. Starr’s Mill entered Thursday night’s matchup determined to not fall on their home field.

In the top of the first inning, senior pitcher Dawson Sweatt started on the mound for the Panthers. Although he walked his first batter, the half inning ended scoreless after a deep fly out to center field left two runners stranded on base for the Wildcats.

With Starr’s Mill up to bat, junior Brian Port led off the lineup for the Panthers with a line out to right field, which was followed by a strike out. Senior catcher Charlie Mizzell was the first player to reach base safely for the Panthers, as he hit a line drive between second base and the shortstop. Senior Nathan Price followed this up with a hit of his own through the same gap, resulting in runners being on first and second. After a passed ball which allowed both runners to advance, sophomore Hunter Lawson hit a ground ball to second which the Whitewater defender botched, allowing both runs on base to score.

The second inning began with a Wildcat single to center field but Whitewater’s success at the plate would end abruptly following three quick outs by the Panthers.

“We didn’t want to let them get going on offense,” Price said. “Our focus was on defense and trying to keep our lead.”

Starr’s Mill senior Hayes Heineke started off the bottom of the second for the Panthers with a single, followed by a Sweatt sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to second. After a strikeout to give the Wildcats two outs, Whitewater elected to intentionally want Port. Senior Mitchell Sutton followed this up with a hit to shallow right field to drive in one run and position the Panthers on first and third base.

“We had two runners on base and I just did my best to drive them in,” Sutton said. “Those are opportunities you have to take advantage of.”

Katie Linkner
A Panther runner slides into third base. The Starr’s Mill offense was impressive as they outscored Whitewater 5-0 in the second game, and 14-1 overall in the three-game series.

The hot hitting was not over for Starr’s Mill as their next batter, Mizzell, hit a ball over the third baseman’s head into left field and drove in another run for the home team. With runners on second and third base after a mistake by the catcher, a ground out closed the inning with the Panthers leading 4-0.

A quick third inning for the Wildcats included a foul ball pop out to Mizzell behind home plate, two walks, and a double play to retire the side. Starr’s Mill would also have an unsuccessful inning as following a walk, the Panther lineup would be put away with three straight outs.

Whitewater continued to struggle in their fourth time at the plate, as the Wildcats could not take advantage of a walk and dead ball. Two runners were left stranded on first and second base for the visiting side.

The bottom of the fourth inning did not produce any runs for the Panthers either. Although Starr’s Mill was able to place two runners on base thanks to a line drive by Sutton and an error on the Whitewater defense, the Panthers would ultimately leave both on base.

Sweatt’s impressive game at the mound continued in the top of the fifth inning, as he gave up just one hit and struck out three opponents to bring his team back up to the plate. Starr’s Mill again was unsuccessful on offense as the Wildcat’s retired three straight batters to bring the game to the sixth inning.

“It is always an advantage when you have a guy like Dawson on the mound,” Sutton said.

In a crucial inning for both teams, Starr’s Mill replaced Sweatt with Sutton on the pitching mound. The Panthers defense remained steady through the change and ended Whitewater’s turn at the plate while one runner was left on base. The Starr’s Mill offense scored one more run in their final time at the plate in the game off of a passed ball, and headed into the final half inning of play.

The top of the seventh was as quick and easy as possible for the Panthers, as Sutton struckout the first two batters and on the final plate appearance of the game, produced a line drive out to seal the Starr’s Mill victory.

“Mitchell Sutton did well both hitting and on the mound,” head coach Brent Moseley said. “Our pitchers have been doing really well.”

This second win of the series would be followed Friday by an 8-1 win in favor of the visiting Panthers. The sweep not only kept the Panthers perfect on the season in region play, but also put them in sole possession atop the region standings.

Next up for Starr’s Mill is a home-away-home series versus McIntosh scheduled for March 13, 15, and 16. The Chiefs currently occupy the fourth seed in region 3-AAAAA, while the Panthers look to seemingly lock up the region title.