Panther Baseball Wins Second State Championship

State Championship – Finals                      Panthers (Varsity) – 5                    Upstate Eagles – 2

After defeating the Easley Guardians in the early game on Saturday morning, the Panthers had to wait to find out who their opponent would be in the championship game at 6:00. Their opponent turned out to be the Upstate Eagles who defeated the Low Country Wildcats by one run in the other semi-final.  The Panthers had defeated the Upstate Eagles earlier this year in Columbia by a score of 14-4 but this game would turn out to be a little closer.

The Panthers were the top seed of the tournament so they took to the field first and trotted out Daniel Williams to try and quiet the Eagles bats that were so loud in the other semi-final.   Daniel got the leadoff hitter to pop out to Cole at second.  He walked the next batter who advanced to third on a single by Caleb Miller.  With the Eagles cleanup hitter at the plate, Caleb broke for second to try and get two Eagle runners in scoring position but the Panther catcher (John Edens) gunned him down leaving a runner at third with two outs.  Daniel then got out of the inning with a strikeout, bringing the Panthers to the plate.

Anderson Blevins led off for the Panthers with a single but was thrown out at second on a steal attempt. John Edens then lined out for the second out of the inning.  James Reed singled and then the Eagles made a crucial error on a long fly ball by Cal Hucks which was dropped by the Eagle centerfielder.  This put Panthers on second and third but with two outs.  Parker Pocock hit a soft grounder to the Eagle shortstop, who waited on the ball, and made a hurried throw to first.  Parker was hustling down the line and beat the throw to first.  The hurried throw was low and pulled the first baseman off of the bag.  James scored on the play and Cal rounded third and broke for home when the first baseman lost track of the ball for a moment.  The first baseman finally found the ball and made a good throw to home but Cal slid in just before the tag and the Panthers led 2-0.  Daniel Williams lined out to centerfield to close out the Panthers half of the first inning.

Neither team seriously threatened in the second. Daniel Williams struck out the side in the top of the frame and the Panthers got two runners on but could not advance them past second.

The Upstate Eagles dented the scoreboard in the top of the third by scoring one run. The Eagle right fielder (Haas) walked with one out.  This brought the Eagle leadoff hitter (Moore) to the plate and he laid down a nice bunt putting runners on first and second.  A groundout to short (Anderson Blevins), advanced the two runners to second and third.  The runner on third scored on a passed ball which also advanced the runner on second to third.  Caleb Miller walked to put runners on first and third.  Caleb stole second on defensive indifference.  The next Eagle batter (Latzka) hit a ball down the third base line that struck the Eagle runner while he was in fair territory giving the Panthers their third out of the inning.

The Panthers re-established their two run advantage in their half of the third. James Reed smoked a ball to deep centerfield.  James was almost to third when the centerfielder retrieved the ball and made his throw to the Eagle cutoff.  The throw was low and scooted under the cutoffs glove allowing James to begin running again and score before they could get the ball back into the infield.  The Panthers led 3-1 after three innings.

The Eagles threatened in the fourth getting two different runners as far as third but they could not push a run across as the first runner at third got caught in a rundown and was tagged out for the second out of the inning. A strikeout ended the inning and the Panthers came to bat in the bottom of the fourth.  The Panthers got a runner to third but a double play ended the Panther’s scoring chance.

This brought us to the fifth inning and it turned out to be very interesting. The Eagle leadoff hitter (Moore) reached on a Panther error and then stole second base.  The next Eagle hitter walked putting runners on first and second with no outs.  A wild pitch advanced both runners to second and third.  Daniel bore down and got the next Eagle hitter with a strikeout.  Daniel also struck out the next batter, but the pitch hit the batter when he swung and the ball went to the backstop.  Per baseball rules, once the ball hit the batter it should have been ruled dead and all play stopped but the umpires said the ball was still live setting off a confusing chain of events.  With first unoccupied, the batter took off for first.  The runner on third scampered for home and the runner on second advanced to third.  The Panther coaches came out to protest the ruling but after the umpires huddled together to discuss the play, the call was allowed to stand and the Panthers lead was down to one (3-2) and the Eagles had runners on first and third with one out.  The next batter flew out to Carson Floyd in left field.  Carson made a nice throw to home after the catch, freezing the runner at third but the runner at second got too far off of second and the alert Panther catcher (Edens) threw behind him to get him for the third out.  The runner on third broke for home on the throw to second, but the Panthers tagged the runner at second out before the runner from third touched home so the run did not count.  The Panthers went down in order in the bottom of the fifth inning and momentum seemed to be definitely in the Eagle dugout.

Daniel induced the first batter in the top of the sixth to ground out to Cal at third base. He hit the next batter putting a runner at first.  Daniel was now near one hundred pitches and so the Panthers made a pitching change, bringing in James Reed in to try and save the game for the Panthers.  James struck out the first batter he faced and walked the second putting Eagle runners at first and second with two outs.  James then struck out the Eagle leadoff hitter to close out the top of the sixth brining the Panthers up to bat.

Daniel Williams led off for PAC and he walked but not after a little more controversy. He appeared to strike out with the pitch hitting him just like what happened to the Eagle batter earlier in the game.  They threw to first to complete the out but then Daniel was brought back up to the plate as the umpire called it a foul ball.  I personally did not hear it hit the bat but was grateful for the reprieve.  Eli William struck out and then Carson singled to advance Daniel to second.  Cole Plyler flew out to left field bringing Anderson up to bat with two outs and runners on first and second.    Anderson stroked the second pitch he saw to deep right field scoring both Daniel and Carson.  The Eagles then got John Edens to pop out to the catcher but they now trailed 5-2 and were down to their last chance at the plate.

The first batter for the Eagles grounded out to Cal at third. James walked the second batter of the inning but then struck out the Eagle clean-up hitter, leaving a runner at first with two outs.  The Eagle shortstop was the next batter and hit a sharp grounder to Cole at second which Cole fielded and tagged the Eagle runner trying to advance to second and the Panthers were state champs for the second year in a row.

The Panthers had eight hits in the game, led by Anderson with three (two singles and a triple). Anderson also had two RBI’s. James Reed contributed two hits with a single and a triple.  James also scored two runs.  Parker Pocock, Carson Floyd and Cole Plyler had the other hits for PAC.  Cal Hucks was robbed of an extra base hit in the fifth inning when the Eagle left fielder made a diving catch on a line shot.

Daniel Williams pitched five and one-third innings to pick up the win. He allowed two runs, neither of which were earned.  He struck out nine Eagle batters and walked or hit six.  He gave up three hits.  James Reed earned the save pitching the final one and two-thirds innings.  He did not allow any hits or runs; striking out three and walking two.

Game Notes:   The Panthers improved their record to 22-7 in winning their second consecutive state championship.  Anderson Blevins and James Reed were named to the All-tournament team and Daniel Williams was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

State Championship Semi-Finals              Panthers (Varsity) – 10                  Easley Guardians – 0     

The Panthers rolled to an easy victory over the Easley Guardians in the semi-finals of the South Carolina Homeschool Athletic Association baseball tournament early Saturday morning on Easley’s home field. The Panthers scored seven runs in the first inning and never looked back in their victory.  Anderson Blevins led off with a walk and promptly stole second.  He scored on a single by John Edens.  After two quick outs, the flood gates opened up for PAC.  Daniel Williams was hit by a pitch.  Parker Pocock followed with a single and both scored on Cole Plyler’s triple down the right field line.  Cole scored on a single by Carson Floyd and then Matthew Derrick drew a base on balls.  Carson and Matthew scored to close out the scoring in the first inning when John Edens reached on an error by the Easley third baseman.

The Panthers scored three more runs in the second inning before cruising to their victory in five innings. Austin Coates and Daniel Williams singled to begin the inning.  Parker doubled to left center field to score Austin and Daniel scored on a ground out by Tyler Thomason.

The Panthers had eight hits in the game led by Parker Pocock with two (single and a double). Parker also scored two runs.  Others with hits included John (single), Austin (single), Cole (triple), Daniel Williams (single), Carson (single) and Jacob Robinson (single).

The Panthers had five different pitchers toe the rubber in the game. All pitched well, limiting the Guardians to two hits.  Carson Floyd pitched the first inning and picked up the win.  He was followed to the mound by John, Danny Waller, Tyler and Will Lawyer.

The Panthers played good defense behind their pitchers turning two double plays in the game.   They had seven assists, led by Parker with two.

Game Notes: The victory improves the Panthers record 21 -7.  Avery Blevins played one inning (second base) with his brother at the varsity level, before Anderson graduates this year.