NACA Tournament Finals (Division #2): Panthers – 7 King’s Homeschool (NJ) – 2
Both King’s Homeschool (New Jersey) and Providence Athletic Club emerged from pool play at the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) Division #2 baseball championships in Dayton, Tennessee at 2-0. As both teams were assured of their place in the championship game and rain was quickly approaching, their pool play game was moved forward to Thursday night and re-made into the championship game. To enable the two teams to play, NACA had to find a field as all the local fields were already taken. They finally located a field in Chattanooga, approximately one hour away. Both teams headed that way after evening chapel and the first pitch was finally made at 9:00 p.m. Most of the Varsity Girls soccer team, who were playing in a tournament of their own, followed the baseball team and watched and cheered during the game even though it did not end until almost midnight and they had a game of their own on the next day.
The coin toss favored the Panthers for the first time in the tournament so they grabbed their gloves and headed out to their positions for the top of the first. The King’s lead-off batter drew a walk but was gunned down by the Panther catcher, John Edens, when he tried to steal second. The King’s got two other runners on in the top of the first but were unable to push a run across the plate. The Panthers came to bat and the Kings retired the first two batters without incident. James Reed, the Panther shortstop, was walked and then Cal Hucks, the Panther third baseman, smashed a double to deep center field scoring James all the way from first.
The Kings got one runner one in the top of the second but were unable to do anything with it so the Panthers came to bat, leading 1-0. Matthew Derrick walked to begin the inning and promptly stole second base. McKinley Proctor was hit by a pitch with one out putting Panther runners at first and second. William Lawyer then walked to load the bases (Alex McKay came in the game as a courtesy runner for William who was the starting pitcher). John Edens, the Panther catcher and leadoff hitter, singled to left center field to score Matthew. McKinley rounded third on the play to aggressively and the Kings were able to get him in a rundown and tag him out. Parker Pocock then tripled to deep right field, driving in both Alex and John. James Reed continued the hitting parade by hitting a single to left field scoring Parker. After two innings, the Panthers had a commanding 5-0 lead.
In the top of the third, the Kings threatened but could not score. Their first two batters singled putting runners on first and second. The next batter grounded out to second advancing both runners one base. The next King batter hit a hard line drive to the Panther shortstop, James Reed, who gloved it for the second out. Neither runner was able to advance on the play. William Lawyer then induced an inning ending groundout to James at short. The Panthers were retired in order in their half of the frame.
The Kings finally broke through in the top of the fourth. Will got a quick ground out to begin the inning, but then walked two straight batters. A hard grounder to James Reed at short was misplayed allowing the first run to score. A single later in the inning plated the second run. The Panthers were retired in order for the second straight inning making the score after four innings, Panthers 5, Kings 2.
The Kings got one batter one in the top of the fifth inning but were unable to score him. The Panthers got some much needed insurance in the bottom of the frame. Parker Pocock singled for his second hit of the game. James Reed flew out to center field for the first out of the inning bringing Cal Hucks to the plate. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Cal drove the ball over the left center field fence to increase the Panther’s lead back to five runs.
Neither team scored in the sixth inning. The Kings came to bat in the top of the seventh trailing by five runs and down to their final at bat. William was still on the mound for PAC and induced fly balls by the first two batters of the frame to the Panther left fielder (Proctor). The Kings were down to their last chance and that chance evaporated when William struck out the final batter of the game and the Panthers were the Division #2 champions for 2017.
The Panthers had seven hits in the game. Cal Hucks had a double and a homerun and knocked in three RBI’s. Parker Pocock tripled, singled, had two RBI’s and scored two runs. Others with hits included John Edens, William Lawyer and James Reed. The Panthers had eleven productive at bats falling three short of their goal of fourteen a game.
Will Lawyer started on the mound for the Panthers. He pitched a complete game, allowing two unearned runs on five hits. He struck out seven and walked four. He danced in and out of trouble all night but never gave in to the opposing batters. It was a great effort in his final high school pitching performance.
Danny Waller, Cal Hucks and James Reed were named to the all-tournament team. Danny Waller received the most valuable offensive player award for the tournament and James Reed won the most valuable pitching award for his efforts against the Cincinnati Trailblazers in the first game.
The win ended the Panthers season with a 23-8 record. What a season they had. They won their third state homeschool championship in a row and, as just noted, they won the NACA division #2 championship (several of the Seniors on this team also won the Division #3 championship in 2015). They also tied the mark for most wins in a season. Congratulations boys!