Panthers win Baseball Championship

NACA Tournament Championship:          Panthers (Varsity) – 8                   Greenville Hurricanes – 3

The Providence Athletic Club Panthers continued their remarkable two week run by following up their first homeschool baseball state championship by winning the division #3 championship at the National Association of Christian Athletes baseball tournament in Dayton, Tennessee.  The Panthers breezed through the first three games to reach the championship game, and in this game, the Panthers found themselves staring across the field at a familiar opponent, the Greenville Hurricanes, who they had beat 9-5 earlier this season.

The Panthers were the home team as the higher seed so they took to the field first on defense and retired the Canes in order.  In the bottom of the first inning, Anderson Blevins led off with a single against the starting Canes pitcher, Hunter Braslee.  Anderson stole second base and then third.  Pat Brunson drew a walk and stole second in an effort to draw a throw to second, allowing Anderson to score from third on the throw.  The Canes had other ideas, however, and cut off the throw to second and threw Anderson out at home on a bang bang play.  This brought James Reed to the plate.  The Canes centerfielder tried to sneak in behind Pat Brunson in an effort to pick him off, but the pitcher did not see him sneaking in and delivered the pitch to James who hit a long fly ball to center field.  The centerfielder turned and ran but the damage was done.  Pat scored and James ended up on third with a triple. Clay Dickinson was next at the plate and hit a long fly ball that the Canes centerfielder managed to get a glove on but could not secure for the catch allowing James to score.  The Panthers managed to get the bases loaded but two straight strikeouts ended the Panther’s threat.

Trevor Dacus, the starting Panther Hurler, allowed a double and a walk in the top of the second but managed to strand them there.  The Panthers continued to put pressure on the Canes in the bottom of the second by plating another three runs.  Eli Williams drew a walk and Anderson sacrificed him to second.  Pat Brunson singled to right center field to score Eli.  Clay came to bat for the second time and laced a triple down the right field line allowing Pat to score.  Trevor then singled to center field scoring Clay and making the score 5-0 after two.

In the top of third, Canes centerfielder, Daniel Martin, doubled to right field with one out.  Caleb Byrd then slapped a hard grounder to the right side that seemed destined for right field, but Panther’s second baseman Cole Plyer made a diving stop, scrambling to his knees to throw Caleb out at first and force Daniel to remain at third where he was ultimately stranded.  The Panthers threatened in the bottom of the third but did not score leaving the score 5-0 after three.

The Canes finally managed to scratch for a run in the top of the fourth.  Will James drew a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a single by Monte Gore.  The Panthers got that run back in the bottom of the frame.   Pat singled and stole second base.  James Reed hit a line drive back up the middle that the pitcher knocked down, scrambled to retrieve and then whirled and made a terrific throw to third to get Pat out on a tag play.  Consecutive singles by Clay and Trevor loaded the bases.  The Panthers attempted a safety squeeze with John Edens but once again the Canes pitcher, Hunter Braslee, made a terrific play pouncing off the mound to get the ball and throw home to force James for the second out of the inning.  After two terrific plays, Hunter made a mistake and uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Clay to score from third.  A strikeout ended the inning and the game moved to the fifth inning with the Panthers leading 6-1.

Trevor continued to pitch well for PAC retiring the Canes in order in the top of the inning.  The Panthers added to their lead in the bottom of the frame by plating another run.  Eli Williams was hit by a pitch with one out and advanced to second on a groundout by Anderson Blevins.  He advanced to third on a passed ball and scored when James Reed hit a swinging bunt in front of the plate.  Hunter charged the ball and turned to throw to first, but his throw led the first baseman into the approaching James Reed and was dropped for an error.

Hunter Braslee, the leadoff hitter for the Canes in the top of the sixth reached on an error by the Panther third baseman.  The error allowed Hunter to reach second base and he got to third on a passed ball.  Hunter then scored on an infield groundout. The Canes got another base runner on but the Panthers turned a 5-4-3 (third-second-first) double play to get out of the inning.  Once again the Panthers immediately got that run back.  Clay Dickinson was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.  Trevor sacrificed Clay to second.  On the third pitch of John Eden’s at bat, Clay broke for third.  The Canes catcher, Will James came up firing but his throw sailed on him and went over the third baseman’s outreached glove.  The overthrow allowed Clay to scramble to his feet and race home before the left field.  This made the score 8-2 leading to the seventh inning.

Trevor had pitched very well through six innings but was beginning to tire in the ninety degree heat.  Sam Styles led off for the Canes with a double and the second batter of the inning reached on a walk.  A single by Daniel Martin scored Styles and put runners at first and second with no outs.  The Panthers brought in James Reed to relieve Trevor.  He induced the first batter he faced to fly out to Pat Brunson in center field.  James then struck out two straight hitters to end the game and hand the Panthers the championship.

Trevor pitched six innings allowing three runs, two of which were earned.  He gave up five hits and walked four Cane batters.  He struck out five.  James Reed pitched the last inning allowing no runs or hits while striking out two.  Starting Canes pitcher, Hunter Braslee, pitched six innings.  He allowed all eight Panther runs, six of which were earned.  The Panthers had nine hits in the contest.

Clay Dickinson led the Panthers at the plate with a triple and a single.  He had two RBI’s and scored three runs.  Pat Brunson and Trevor Dacus contributed two singles each.  Pat had two RBI’s, and Trevor, one.  Pat scored two runs.  James Reed tripled and Anderson and John Edens contributed singles.  James Reed was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player and James and Pat Brunson were named to the all-tournament team.  The Panthers were awarded the tournaments Best Sportsmanship trophy for the second year in a row.  The Panthers end their season with a 21-6 record.