Panthers claim title

Posted 4/18/24

With home and away wins over the Como-Pickton Eagles last Thursday and Friday, the Alba-Golden Panthers completed a perfect district record, securing consecutive district pennants.  

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Panthers claim title


With home and away wins over the Como-Pickton Eagles last Thursday and Friday, the Alba-Golden Panthers completed a perfect district record, securing consecutive district pennants. 

Como-Pickton had an opportunity to match the Panthers win/loss record, but it would have required  two wins over the Panthers and closing out the district record without a loss.  

The Eagles had nothing to lose, while the Panthers wanted to hoist this year’s pennant with clarity.

Thursday, April 11 

One just never knows what a day at the ballpark will bring. Last Thursday’s Alba-Golden versus Como-Pickton baseball game will likely force many fans to go back and reread the rules of baseball.  

The 11-3 Alba-Golden win featured three balk calls, a fielder’s interference, a hitter’s interference,  two rundowns and a fouled bunt attempt with two strikes. It was messy.

Through the eventful game there was one constant: the work of Easton Campbell on the mound. Campbell gave up only four hits to a solid Como-Pickton side in a complete game win. He struck out 8, issued 3 free passes and put the Eagles down in order in four innings.

The game was expected to be a bit of a wrestling match between the two teams competing for the 15-2A district lead. It was that, and more. 

In the third Como-Pickton opened the scoring. The Eagles used two delayed steals. On the first, the Panthers threw out the runner heading home with a great throw and tag. On the second, the Eagle runner reached the plate as the Panthers were enticed into a rundown between first and second. This play featured a fielder’s interference on Alba-Golden.

In the bottom half, the Panthers tied it up in a wild sequence which saw a run-scoring play reversed and a runner sent back to second base (after having scored) due to a hitter’s interference call. Boogie Trimble eventually came in to score on a Como-Pickton error, and the game was knotted at 1-1 going into the fourth. 

Alba-Golden took a 3-1 lead in the next inning. Tucker Samples doubled to left and Hunter Whitecotton got plunked by a pitch. Both came around to score – Samples on a fielder’s choice and Whitecotton on a balk.

Michael Lacy led off the bottom of the fifth with a double to right-center.  He scored on a passed ball. Campbell was hit by a pitch, and pinch-runner Brett Sutton scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Luke Jones. 

Como-Pickton mustered a nice rally in the top of the sixth, when their number 3 hitter sent a 2-RBI double into the right-centerfield gap. 

Leading 5-3, the Panthers broke the game open in the sixth. Ayden Blalock and Michael Lacy  ripped base hits as the Como-Pickton pitching staff lost the strike zone. Alba-Golden recorded six runs (four unearned) in the inning. 

After giving up consecutive base hits in the top of the seventh, Campbell buckled-down and dispatched the Eagles to preserve the win.

The game set-up the rematch on the following evening at Como-Pickton.

Friday April 12

Alba-Golden took full advantage of an inability of the hosts to find the strike zone in recording a 14-2 five-inning win. The Como-Pickton starter struggled, firing just two strikes in his first 28 pitches.

The Panthers sent their whole line-up to the plate in the first and hung five runs on the board (four unearned). The Eagles committed three errors, yielded five base-on-balls, one balk, three passed balls and two wild pitches to open the game. 

The bright spot for the Panthers in that first inning was a run-scoring double to right-centerfield off the bat of Blalock. 

Alba-Golden’s starter, Mason Smith, had no such control issues. He produced a two-hit gem, striking out 6 and walking 3. The pitching tandem of Smith and Campbell gives Alba-Golden a strong one-two punch in any playoff series.

Each team added a run in the second – Alba-Golden on a wild pitch, and Como-Pickton with a sacrifice fly. The Panthers gifted the hosts one run in the third with an infield error. 

The score stood 7-1 as the game reached the fourth. The Panthers added three runs in the inning leveraging a clean base hit by Kaden Trimble, three free passes and an RBI-single by Tucker Samples. 

The Eagles chalked up one run in the bottom half with an RBI-producing extra-base hit.

Two RBI-produced hits – a double to the base of the centerfield wall by Campbell and an infield base hit by Cooper Christian fueled a five-run sixth.

Mason set the Eagles down in order in the bottom to secure the win.

The defensive play of the game came late as Samples scooped a throw from catcher Campbell in just enough time to record the second out of the inning. It was a great stretch and scoop. 

Despite losing two runners on the base paths, the Panthers did not relent from their aggressive base running. In the sixth, Trimble scored from second on a passed ball, when he realized that the Eagle catcher had lost the location of the pitch. Trimble never slowed as he rounded third, and scored easily.  

The Panthers will need aggressive, smart base running, timely hitting, error-free fielding, and quality starts from Campbell and Smith as they begin playoff baseball. Each of these elements have been part of the Panthers game this year, the playoff will demand that they all be present in each series.