Panthers advance to area round
The Panthers won a tight, 2-1, game Friday night on the arm of Easton Campbell, and showcased a variety of ways to score in Saturday afternoon’s 7-3 second-game win.
Panthers advance to area round
The Alba-Golden Panthers kept the momentum of their pennant-winning season alive with a sweep of the Linden-Kildare Tigers last weekend. The Panthers won a tight, 2-1, game Friday night on the arm of Easton Campbell, and showcased a variety of ways to score in Saturday afternoon’s 7-3 second-game win.
Campbell put in yeoman’s work in the opener. He went the distance, allowing only four hits, striking-out seven and issuing one free pass.
The Panthers got right to work on Friday. Lead-off hitter Glen Hartley cracked a triple. Michael Lacy stepped into the box and promptly singled bringing Hartley home.
In a flash Alba-Golden had a one-run lead.
It stayed 1-0 until the fourth. After Campbell singled, Donald McVay was substituted as a pinch-runner. McVay reached scoring position by stealing second, and he came home on an error to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers tallied one run in response in the bottom half of the inning. A walk – the only walk given up by Campbell on the night – an outfield error and a single brought the run home for Linden-Kildare.
It was the end of the scoring for the game. A stalemate ensued with each pitcher stymying the opposition.
But it was enough to give the Panthers that all-important first-game win.
On Saturday, Conner Gibson got the start. He had a solid pitching line on the day: eight hits, nine strike-outs and four free passes. Despite the heat, humidity and draining sun, Gibson improved throughout the game.
He certainly helped his cause by banging a ball over the centerfielder’s head to score Campbell in the top of the first. Campbell had cracked a hard single to right field which rolled past the Tiger outfielder. Both hits ended up as triples.
Linden-Kildare had their best offensive inning in the first. An infield throwing error, two infield base hits and a clean single put two runs on the board and gave the Tigers a brief lead.
Introducing baserunners to any situation complicates the fielding and swings the advantage to the offense. That is exactly what Alba-Golden did on Saturday. In the second they drew a base-on-balls, and a hitter reached after being struck by a thrown ball on the base paths.
In this case, Luke Jones followed with an RBI bunt, and Mason Smith drove a run home with a Texas Leaguer to right. The Panthers took a 3-2 lead which held through the third.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the third. Gibson buckled down, securing the second out of the inning with a strike-out. A sharply hit comebacker was deftly stabbed by Gibson who threw to the plate for the third out of the inning.
Both pitchers were laboring in the conditions. Through three innings, Gibson had thrown 54 pitches while the Tiger’s starter had tossed 63.
Alba-Golden added one run in the fourth (from a single baserunner and a Michael Lacy triple), and two runs in the sixth (a Mason Smith double chased two baserunners home).
It was the key hit of the game. It gave Alba-Golden a 4-run lead as the game went to the bottom of the sixth.
Each side added a run in the seventh, but Alba-Golden had set a winning margin. Gibson sensed the bi-district title at hand. He struck-out two in the bottom of the seventh. When Lacy sent a throw to Boogie Trimble at second for a force-out to conclude the game, the celebration was on.
The Panthers managed seven base hits on the day. It was the three extra-base hits which did the most damage, driving in four runs. Of note, Alba-Golden put 14 runners on base. This forced Linden-Kildare into many snap decisions in the field, while ensuring that those extra-base hits produced runs.
The upcoming series against Beckville will certainly offer a whole new challenge for the Panthers. Based on their first playoff series win, they should be up for it.
Game one is Thursday at 2 p.m. at Mike Carter Field in Tyler. The series resumes there Saturday at 4 p.m. with a third game if needed to follow.