So close, yet so far

Panthers lose potential region championship clincher


Annika Pepper

Junior Beau Gardner pitches against the Wildcats. Gardner struggled on the mound, allowing seven of Whitewater’s 13 hits in the game. He also allowed five of the visiting team’s nine runs.

Ben Barkley, Staff Writer

After winning their series over Jonesboro last week, the Starr’s Mill varsity baseball team needed one more win to secure their third straight region 3-AAAAA championship. However, the Whitewater Wildcats broke away with great play on both sides of the field, winning the game 9-1 on the Panthers’ senior night.

It’s been a tough day, and it showed on the field.”

— head coach Brent Moseley

The Panthers were slow offensively throughout the game, only recording three hits. Defensively, sophomore pitcher Eli Jones allowed six hits, four runs, and threw two strikeouts in four innings. Junior pitcher Beau Gardner allowed seven hits, five runs, and threw two strikeouts in three innings. Sophomore Bryson Daniel finished off the game with no hits.

Coming off a series sweep against Fayette County, the Wildcats were strong at the plate, totaling 13 hits and five RBIs. On the mound, senior Chase Townsend only allowed three hits to go along with three strikeouts. Senior Dylan Morris also pitched for the Wildcats, allowing no hits and throwing one strikeout.

“We just have to bounce back,” senior Brian Port said. “We’ve got two more games against them, and we have to win one to win region, so I’m not too worried.”

Annika Pepper
Sophomore Chay Yeager completes a routine out to second base. Yeager was one of only three Panthers to record a hit in the loss. He was also the only Panther to score a run.

The first inning saw slow play from both teams offensively, keeping the score locked at zero. The top of the second saw senior Wildcat Matthew Morgano walked then subsequently moved to third due to ground outs by sophomore Chris Buchanan and junior Zach Leischner. On the next pitch, Morgano stole home due to a wild pitch, giving the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead.

“We weren’t there mentally,” head coach Brent Moseley said. “It’s been a tough day, and it showed on the field.”

The Panthers continued to struggle at the plate with no hits through two innings. Meanwhile, the Wildcats maintained momentum going into the third. Senior Maddox Mueller led off the inning with a double, which set up an RBI single by senior Landon Busby to put Whitewater up 2-0.

“This loss is not good,” sophomore Sean White said. “It’s gonna sit with us the rest of the night, but we have to shake it off.”

The Panthers started to make a run offensively in the bottom of the third. After junior Noah Preuer grounded out, sophomore Chay Yeager hit a line drive base hit for the Mill’s first hit of the game. Sophomore Thad Ector was walked after that, followed by sophomore Daniel Courtney flying out. Port walked shortly after to load the bases with two outs. However, White grounded out to end the inning empty handed and still down 2-0.

The top of the fourth looked like it was going to be three up, three down after two straight groundouts. However, three straight line drives by Mueller, junior Carter Ruff, and senior Thomas McKenzie loaded the bases. Senior Dylan Morris then grounded out to keep the score 2-0 Wildcats.

“They were just getting hits,” Port said. “There was nothing we could really do about it.”

This was probably [Whitewater’s] best hitting game they’ve had all season.”

— sophomore Sean White

Offensive struggles for the Panthers continued into the fourth, going three up, three down. Jones left the mound in the fifth inning, and Gardner took his turn. Busby led off the inning with a base hit, while Morgano flew out. On the next pitch, Leischner recorded a hit-by-pitch. Flyouts by Townsend and Ruff kept the score at 2-0.

The bottom of the fifth saw the only run scored by Starr’s Mill, as Yeager scored off a wild pitch. However, Starr’s Mill went silent after that. Entering the sixth it was 2-1 Wildcats.

“Our pitching slowed down a little bit,” White said. “This was probably [Whitewater’s] best hitting game they’ve had all season.”

Then came the top of the sixth, which saw seven runs scored by the Wildcats. Gardner struck out Mueller to start, but then McKenzie, Morris, and Busby all got on to load the bases. Morgano was then hit by a pitch, bringing McKenzie in to increase the Whitewater lead to 3-1. On the next two pitches, Buchanan and Leischner each drove in runs to make the score 5-1.

Gardner briefly slowed the Wildcat momentum down by striking out Townsend. However, Ruff hit a two-RBI double two pitches later, making the score 7-1. One more two-RBI double was recorded by Mueller shortly after. McKenzie grounded out on the next pitch, making the score 9-1 Whitewater.

“We just need to relax,” Port said. “If we do that, we can easily come back and win the series.”

The rest of the game went slow for both teams, giving the Wildcats a 9-1 victory.

The loss snaps an 11-game Panther win streak, while the Wildcats have now won six straight. The Panthers continue their series against the Wildcats at 6 p.m. tonight at Whitewater, with game three scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Starr’s Mill.