Stage one complete

Panthers win crucial game in McIntosh, claim 11th region championship title in program history


Annika Pepper

Starr’s Mill baseball team poses with the region 2-AAAAA trophy following their game against the McIntosh Chiefs. The Panthers only needed one win against either McIntosh or Northside-Columbus to claim the region title, and they achieved their goal against the Chiefs. This is the program’s fourth consecutive region championship and eleventh in school history.

Daniel Stackhouse, Sports Editor

Leading off the season, the Panther baseball team exhibited loads of promise. Even though they hit some slumps here and there, they still played well enough to take charge of one of the toughest regions in the state. Last Thursday, they sealed the deal and won their fourth consecutive region championship, defeating McIntosh 5-2.

Nothing better than beating them here, and taking the series, and taking the region.

— senior Declan Dun

On the mound for the Panthers was senior Declan Dun, who threw for four strikeouts in a complete game. The infield, despite a few errors, were on point, putting together nearly a dozen  groundouts and a double play.

Offensively, the hitting was as strong as ever. Only one player on the batting order did not make it to the bases at least once. Without any home runs, strong base running and taking advantage of errors won them the day.

 “I knew we needed to win,” Dun said. “Nothing better than beating them here, and taking the series, and taking the region. Had to come out here, and I knew what I needed to do.”

Leading off, senior Thad Ector got a base hit, and stole second on junior Josh Tate’s at-bat. Tate was hit with a 1-3 groundout, but an error paved the way for Ector to score the first run of the game. McIntosh tried to get something started, but the Panthers shut them down to end the inning with a 1-0 lead.

At the bottom of the second, senior Evan Gillanders batted in senior Blake Summers to get the Chiefs on the board and tie the game 1-1. A sacrifice fly from sophomore Trey King brought in senior Glenn Schmidt for a score. After two innings, the Chiefs took the lead 2-1. Starr’s Mill responded swiftly.

Tate hit a flyball to the right field wall and made it to third base for a triple. Senior Sean White brought him home with a single. After he and senior Chay Yeager advanced to third and second off of a wild pitch, White scored off of a sacrifice groundout to go up 3-2 after the top of the third. The Panther defense made a 6-4-3 double play followed by a 5-3 groundout at the bottom of the third to retain their 3-2 lead after three.

Senior outfielder Ryder Wagenknecht steps in for a swing. Against his former team, Wagenknecht went for a perfect 3-3 day at the plate. “It was awesome [to beat McIntosh],” Wagenknecht said. “We all got really hyped after the game and that was really sick. That was a great experience.” (Annika Pepper)

“There’s no feeling that could beat [getting good at-bats against McIntosh],” senior and former Chief Ryder Wagenknecht said. “As the crowd was getting kind of wild there a couple times and just to be able to clutch out and get some hits, it’s a feeling that just can’t be beat.”

Wagenknecht started the top of fourth second on the order and got on first off of a walk. A wild pitch led to Wagenknecht stealing second, and a flyball single to right center from Ector brought home Wagenknecht to give the Panthers a 4-2 lead. 

Despite two errors in the bottom of the fourth, 1-3 and 6-3 groundouts on consecutive bats kept McIntosh quiet heading into the final three innings. The next two innings would remain scoreless en route to the seventh inning.

A single hit by Yeager brought Tate in to extend the Panther lead to 5-2 in the top of the seventh. Dun threw a strikeout at the first batter, and the defense made a 5-3 groundout to put the pressure on the Chiefs. Freshman Conner Soper hit an incoming pitch between Yeager and second base. Yeager dove for the ball, and threw it to first for a 4-3 groundout.

In the nick of time, Soper was out. Starr’s Mill not only claimed their fifth consecutive region win, but their fourth consecutive region title and the region 2-AAAAA trophy by a final score of 5-2.

“It’s awesome [to win the region championship],” Dun said. “Last time we won the region championship, I wasn’t playing. So it was nice to win this one.”

After winning the region title, they traveled to Northside-Columbus the next day and defeated the Patriots 10-8. To end the regular season, Starr’s Mill finished with an overall record of 21-8 and a region record of 15-3. The team is guaranteed at least two home playoff games. Until then, the Panthers will take this next week as a bye week without any games to make up.

Panther baseball will hit the field at Panther Stadium for their first playoff game on April 28. Opponent and start time are to be determined.