Panthers win nine-inning battle against Houston County


Annika Pepper

Sophomore Thad Ector leads off of second base. The Panthers were very effective in driving runs in, totalling four RBIs in the game. Ector had led the team with two RBIs.

Ty Odom, Staff Writer

After a 10-0 shutout win over the Locust Grove Wildcats on Feb. 11, the Panther varsity baseball team continued their early-season success against tough competition in their second game with a 6-5 win over the Houston County Bears. Strong pitching and consistent batting contributed to what was the 400th win for head coach Brent Moseley.

Annika Pepper
Sophomore Sean White throws a pitch. The Panthers’ strong pitching game contributed to the 6-5 win. White led the team in strikeouts with four.

“We have to challenge ourselves before we get into region play,” Moseley said. “This is the toughest schedule we’ve out of the region in 15 years.”

Sophomore Thad Ector led the Panthers in RBIs with two in the game, and sophomore Sean White led the team in strikeouts with four.

Starr’s Mill got off to a rocky start in the top of the first inning. An infield error allowed the Bears to put their first batter on base. The next batter was thrown out at first, but advanced a runner to scoring position at second base. After stealing third base during the third at-bat, Houston County scored their first run, but the Panthers got another out courtesy of a fly ball caught by Ector. Junior Hunter Lawson was subbed out as pitcher after walking the next three batters, allowing two more runs. Sophomore Chay Yeager took over as pitcher, striking out the last batter for the third out, retiring the side.

In the bottom of the first inning, Starr’s Mill started off slow when junior Beau Gardner, the lead-off batter, was thrown out at first. After a quick first out, senior Brian Port was walked, and was brought home during the next at-bat by Ector for the Panthers’ first run. After the Mill’s first score, senior Ryan Henderson was walked, but Houston County countered with a double play, throwing Henderson out at second and White out at first, ending the side. At the end of the first inning, the Bears led the Panthers 3-1.

In the second inning, the Panther defensive woes continued. After Yeager struck out the first batter, the next two batters hit line drives that made it close to the back fence, resulting in two doubles and another run. After striking out the fourth batter and tagging out a runner stealing second base, the side was retired, bringing the Mill up to bat again.

The Panthers started the bottom of the second inning slowly with two quick pop outs by Lawson and sophomore Daniel Courtney. However, a rally late in the inning loaded the bases, and the next batter was walked, bringing the third base runner home. The inning was retired after Ector was tagged out on the way to first base. After two innings Starr’s Mill trailed Houston County 4-2.

The top of the third inning was a quick three up, three down. The Bears’ first two batters hit pop flies that were caught by Panther outfielders, and the third batter was thrown out at first base, bringing a swift end to the side.

This is the toughest schedule we’ve out of the region in 15 years.

— head coach Brent Moseley

The Panthers also went scoreless in the third inning, with only Lawson getting on base after a strikeout and a ground out at first. However, Starr’s Mill was not able to bring Lawson home when Courtney was thrown out at first, ending the third inning. At the end of the third inning, the Bears still held a two run lead over the Panthers.

“I did my best to throw strikes,” Yeager said. “I was doing the best I could for the team.”

In the top of the fourth inning, sophomore Declan Dun replaced Yeager at pitcher after the latter allowed a base hit and and walked the second batter. The Bears’ third batter of the inning hit a fly ball that landed in the gap between right and center field, bringing a runner home. However, the Panthers were able to tag out a runner at third base, and did not allow another hit for the rest of the inning, throwing the second and third batters out at first.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Starr’s Mill countered Houston County’s strong showing with two base hits in a row by sophomore Eli Jones and Yeager, who was tagged out at second after another base hit by Gardner. With runners on first and third, senior Brian Port was up to bat. A pop fly that was caught by a Bears outfielder brought in the third base runner. A caught fly ball hit by junior Noah Preuer retired the side with the Starr’s Mill behind Houston County 5-3

The Panther defense had a strong showing in the top of the fifth inning. The team only allowed one Houston County batter to get on base after a dead ball. A force out at second and a double play spelled the end of the side after facing only three batters.

Starr’s Mill was even more productive in the bottom of the fifth inning. After the Bears walked two Panthers, Lawson drove in a base hit that brought the second base runner home. With runners on second and third, a wild pitch by Houston County allowed the Panthers to add on another run. The inning was retired after Port was struck out, but Starr’s Mill tied the game at five runs a piece going into the sixth.

Annika Pepper
Sophomore Chay Yeager runs to first base after being walked. The Panthers were able to consistently get on base throughout the game. Starr’s Mill had twelve hits on the evening.

To start the sixth inning, White replaced Dun as pitcher. As the new pitcher, White only allowed one hit in the inning, striking out two Houston County batters, and the third out being thrown out at first base, retiring the side.

“I realized that I had to help my team out,” White said. “I have to play defense where they need me.”

The Panthers were unable to make any progress in the bottom of the sixth, with two strikeouts  in a row followed by a ground out at first, ending the inning with the score still tied 5-5.

The top of the seventh inning was over just as quickly as it started. White struck out the first two batters, and the third batter was thrown out at first to end the side.

The bottom of the seventh was also quick with three pop flies hit by Lawson, Courtney, and Jones all being caught by Bears’ outfielders. After seven innings of play, the score remained tied at 5 runs each.

In the top of the eighth inning, a new pitcher was brought in for the Mill. Gardner replaced White at the mound, who struck out two batters after the first hit a pop fly caught by a Panther outfielder.

To begin the bottom of the eighth inning, Yeager made contact for a base hit, but the following three batters were not able to bring him home after two strikeouts and a ground out ended the inning. Neither team scored in the inning, leaving the score tied going into the ninth inning.

The Panther defense continued their stellar play in the top of the ninth inning. Only one Bears batter was allowed on base for the entire inning, with the other three being caught out, thrown out, and struck out.

The bottom of the ninth started slow for Starr’s Mill, with Henderson striking out. With one out, White drove a grounder into the outfield for a single, and Lawson was able to advance him into scoring position. Another base hit by sophomore Cole Sanders loaded the bases, and brought Jones up to bat. A dead ball allowed the third base runner to score the game-winning run, giving the Panthers the 6-5 win.

“These guys are very coachable,” Moseley said. “They play hard and expect to win every time they go out.”

The Panthers played against the Newnan Cougars on Feb. 14, suffering a 10-8 loss, their first of the season, bringing their overall record to 2-1. They will play at home again on Feb. 25 against the Fayette County Tigers at 5 p.m.