Panthers force mercy rule despite hot start from Bears

Sophomore+Thad+Ector+runs+toward+first+base.+The+Panthers+were+down+4-0+after+the+first+inning.+However%2C+an+offensive+onslaught+saw+them+take+over+the+game+and+force+a+mercy+rule+victory+14-4.

Annika Pepper

Sophomore Thad Ector runs toward first base. The Panthers were down 4-0 after the first inning. However, an offensive onslaught saw them take over the game and force a mercy rule victory 14-4.

Ben Barkley, Staff Writer

After winning their series against McIntosh to take the region lead, the Starr’s Mill baseball team kicked off another region series on Tuesday against the Griffin Bears. Despite a slow first inning, the Panthers picked up the pace late in the game, forcing a mercy rule win 14-4 in five innings.

We came out and won, but it didn’t start all too well.”

— sophomore Chay Yeager

“This was a win we had to get,” sophomore Sean White said. “We knew we had to spark something, so it started with one batter and rolled to the next person.”

The Panther offense was led by sophomore Chay Yeager, who went 4-4 with three RBIs. He also performed well on the mound, pitching four innings with two hits, no earned runs and two strikeouts. Senior Ryan Henderson, junior Beau Gardner, White and sophomore Daniel Courtney each went 3-4 with three RBIs.

Griffin first baseman Devin Keene led the way for the Bear offense, going 2-3 with a double and a single. Kole Fulgham drove in two RBIs, while Evan Betsill and Christian Durham drove in one for their only runs of the game in the first inning.

“We weren’t ready to play in the beginning,” head coach Brent Moseley said. “We were just going through the motions everywhere, but we rallied up after that and did a great job.”

Annika Pepper
Sophomore Chay Yeager talks with assistant coach David Cooper at first base. Yeager went 4-4 at the plate with three RBIs. He also performed well on the mound, throwing two strikeouts and only allowing two hits in four innings.

Griffin’s Jordan Ford led off the first inning with a triple off of Gardner, followed by an RBI double by Durham to put the score at 1-0 early. Keene got on base after that, but Gardner struck out Jacob Hillis to halt the Griffin momentum. However, Betsill hit an RBI single on the next pitch to increase the lead to 2-0.

Darrien Chapman’s base hit set up Fulgham’s two-RBI double to bring the score up to 4-0. Betsill and Seth Bridges both popped out to center to end their half of the inning up 4-0.

“We battled back, which was really good,” Yeager said. “We came out and won, but it didn’t start all too well.”

The next couple innings were slow for both teams on offense. The bottom of the second saw Henderson, White, and junior Hunter Lawson each get base hits off of line drives. However, Henderson was thrown out after an attempted stolen base, leaving runners on first and third.

After Gardner was walked to load the bases and sophomore Eli Jones hit a flyout, Yeager hit an RBI single to put the Panthers on the board 4-1. The run was cut short, as sophomore Thad Ector hit a flyout to end the inning with the bases still loaded.

Yeager, who replaced Gardner on the mound in the second inning, handled the Griffin offense, going three up, three down to end their half of the inning. The Panthers then failed to contribute runs on the offensive end into the third.

We’re defending region champions and everybody is trying to knock us off. They have to understand that we have to be on our top every time.”

— head coach Brent Moseley

Yeager continued to pitch well to counter the offensive woes. He made Fulgham and Ford flyout, and Austin Bailey strikeout to keep the score at 4-1.

“[Chay] hadn’t thrown in a while,” Moseley said. “He came in and just shut their momentum down. We needed someone who could do that, and he stepped up.”

The bottom of the fourth saw the Mill’s offense get into a rally after two quick outs. After Gardner and Jones each grounded out, Yeager and Ector both hit line drive base hits. Courtney drove in an RBI single to decrease the Griffin lead 4-2. On the next pitch, senior Brian Port hit a two-RBI triple to tie the game at four. Henderson hit a flyout after that, keeping the score tied at four.

“We know we’re not the best out there,” White said. “But we know we have to work harder than everybody else to be better than everybody else.”

The Panthers kept Griffin in check to begin the fifth inning with three groundouts. When it was their turn to bat, they started to show how lethal the Panther offense can be. White hit a flyout to begin the inning, but Lawson hit a line drive base hit, and Gardner hit a double to put both runners in scoring position.

Chapman took the mound, but Jones immediately hit a two-RBI double to take the lead 6-4. Starr’s Mill did not stop there, as Yeager was walked, and Ector hit an RBI single to make the score 7-4.

Courtney then hit a base hit to load the bases, and Port was walked, bringing Yeager home to increase the lead to 8-4. On the next pitch, Henderson hit a two-RBI single, White was walked, and Lawson hit a sacrifice fly RBI to make the score 11-4 in favor of the Panthers.

“We need to come out ready to play,” Yeager said. “We also need to come out with good pitching.”

Gardner and Jones were walked after that, which led to another run to make the score 12-4. Yeager then hit a two-RBI single to force the mercy rule and win the game 14-4.

“We’ve got to have more energy every time,” Moseley said. “We’re defending region champions and everybody is trying to knock us off. They have to understand that we have to be on our top every time.”

The Panthers traveled to Griffin this evening and won 4-1 with Jones pitching a complete game. The series wraps up tomorrow night at Starr’s Mill.

The team plays two road games over Spring Break. They will play at 5:55 p.m. on April 4 against Denmark High School in Alpharetta, and at 3 p.m. on April 5 against Flowery Branch High School in Roswell.