A tale of two nights

Panther baseball season ends after 2-1 series loss against Locust Grove


Shelby Foster

Head coach Brent Moseley talks with senior Brian Port and junior Beau Gardner at the mound during game three. In a series-determining game, the Panthers were unable to pick up the win, bringing an end to their season in the second round of the state playoffs despite winning a third straight region title.

Ty Odom, Staff Writer

After defeating Ware County in the first round of the GHSA state playoffs, the Starr’s Mill baseball team, holding the No.1 seed in Region 3-AAAAA faced off against the Locust Grove Wildcats, the No. 2 seed from Region 4-AAAAA.

Game one ended in an 8-3 Locust Grove win, but the Panthers bounced back to close the night with a 15-1 mercy rule win in game two, setting up for a series clinching game three the next night. The Panthers were mercy ruled by the Wildcats 13-3, bringing their season to an end.

Shelby Foster
Sophomore Thad Ector takes a swing at a pitch. The Panthers struggled make contact in game one, only getting seven hits. In game two, Starr’s Mill erupted for 17 hits in a 15-1 victory.

“We have to be tougher mentally,” head coach Brent Moseley said. “When pressure situations arise, we’ve got to make plays.”

Over the series, sophomore Thad Ector led Starr’s Mill on offense with four RBIs. The Panthers’ defense did not perform as well, allowing Locust Grove to score 22 runs in the series.

Game one started off strong for the Mill, as they scored three runs while keeping Locust Grove scoreless in the first inning. However, during the top of the second inning, the Wildcats caught fire, getting three hits, including a triple that brought home three runs. A Locust Grove baserunner was also able to steal home plate after a wild pitch by sophomore Eli Jones. The Panthers retired the side with two ground outs, but the damage had already been done.

Starr’s Mill was not able to respond in the bottom of the second despite base hits from senior Brian Port and sophomore Chay Yeager. After two innings, the Wildcats held a 4-3 lead over the Panthers.

“We had the momentum at the beginning,” Ector said. “But then they had a four-spot and we couldn’t get the momentum back.”

After allowing two hits to open the top of the third inning, Jones was replaced at the mound by sophomore Declan Dun. Dun faced two batters in the inning, allowing one run from a ground out RBI, and closing the side with a caught fly ball.

The Panthers did not make any progress in trimming the lead in the bottom of the third, quickly ending the inning with a fly out by junior Hunter Lawson, a ground out by sophomore Daniel Courtney, and a fly out by senior Ryan Henderson. At the end of the third inning. Starr’s Mill trailed Locust Grove three runs to five.

Shelby Foster
Senior Brian Port tags third base. In the second game of the series, Starr’s Mill consistently got into scoring position. The Panthers’ strong hitting performance allowed them to score six runs each in the fourth and fifth innings.

Locust Grove continued to add on to their lead with an RBI early in the fifth inning, but Starr’s Mill prevented any more scoring, retiring the side with a caught fly ball and a double play. The Panthers were unable to score on offense, ending the inning down three runs to the Wildcats.

Following a scoreless sixth inning, Locust Grove added to their total courtesy of a double that drove in two runs. After allowing the two runs, Starr’s Mill retired the side with two outs in a row.

The Panthers were unable to make a late game rally after going three up, three down. After seven innings, the Wildcats took game one with an 8-3 win over the Panthers.

“We can’t give up a four-run inning,” junior Beau Gardner said. “Even if we do, we’ve just got to keep going.”

Game two started off with the Panthers playing more consistently than they did in game one. In the first three innings, Starr’s Mill scored three runs while keeping Locust Grove scoreless.

On offense, the Panthers were able to get on base and bring home one run in each of the first three innings. On defense, Starr’s Mill faced no more than four Locust Grove batters. After three innings, the Panthers held a 3-0 lead over the Wildcats.

Starr’s Mill had a tremendous showing in the fourth inning. Port and sophomore Sean White got things started with two base hits. Lawson followed with a base hit that brought White home. After getting two outs, Starr’s Mill went on a two-out rally, stealing home plate twice and scoring off of two RBIs by Ector. A pop fly hit by Port retired a six-run inning for the Panthers. At the end of the fourth, the Panthers led the Wildcats 9-0.

“We had a mentality to go out and score,” Port said. “We had more motivation in Game two.”

Shelby Foster
Junior Noah Preuer slides into home plate. The Panthers took advantage of the Wildcats’ sloppy defense in game two, stealing home three times, twice in the fourth inning and once in the fifth.

Starr’s Mill went on another tear in the top of the fifth inning. White got things started with a base hit. Lawson and junior Noah Preuer followed with base hits, and Henderson drove in the first run of the inning. After a pop out by Gardner, Kearns followed with another RBI. During the next at bat, two runs were scored, with Preuer stealing home and Kearns being advanced home on a walk. Ector and Port followed with two more RBIs, bringing in the last runs of the inning. When the side was retired, the Panthers held a 15-0 lead over the Wildcats.

The bottom of the fifth inning saw Locust Grove score their only run of the game after an infield error that allowed a Wildcat base runner to advance home. The Panthers threw two batters out at first after allowing the run. Gardner struck out the last batter to give Starr’s Mill the 15-1 victory and tie the series at one game apiece.

In game three, the Wildcats mercy ruled Starr’s Mill 13-3 to advance to the third round of the state playoffs. The Panthers got off to a good start, holding a 2-0 lead at the end of the first inning. In the bottom of the second inning, a combination of infield errors by Starr’s Mill and strong hitting by Locust Grove led to ten unearned runs for the Wildcats. In the third and fourth innings, Locust Grove scored three runs while keeping Starr’s Mill scoreless.

During the fifth inning the Panthers were able to add one run courtesy of a Henderson RBI. Starr’s Mill was unable to cut the deficit any further, with a pop fly by Gardner being caught in the outfield for the final out of the game, giving the Panthers a 13-3 loss.

With the loss, the Panthers’ season came to a premature end after winning a third consecutive region championship. Starr’s Mill finished the season with a 29-6 overall record, 16-2 in region play.