Panthers back-to-back champs
It wasn’t a classic pitching duel, but rather a game featuring two excellent pitchers. Alba-Golden’s Conner Gibson and Como-Pickton’s Dalton Morgan – who had played t-ball …
Panthers back-to-back champs
It wasn’t a classic pitching duel, but rather a game featuring two excellent pitchers. Alba-Golden’s Conner Gibson and Como-Pickton’s Dalton Morgan – who had played t-ball together as youngsters – combined for a jewel of a game Friday at Alba-Golden ballpark.
Gibson and the Panthers won the day, 4-1, and secured their second consecutive District 15-2A pennant. They did it in fine form, by taking advantage of many of the intricacies of the game.
The Eagles were bent on upsetting the Panthers and eventually forcing a one-game playoff for the district title. There was a lot at stake.
Como-Pickton came out strong. After two quick outs to open the game, the Eagles ripped a double down the third baseline. A clean single to left pushed the run across, and the visitors had the first run of the game.
Glen Hartley led off for the Panthers with a single to left. With a great jump, he stole second base and took third on a fielder’s choice. Easton Campbell slapped a ground ball to third. Coach Jimmy Oxford never hesitated, sending Hartley home from third on contact. The score was notched.
In the second each team went down on three swinging strikeouts. Alba-Golden could not make use of Tyler Perez’s lead-off double, and he was stranded.
The Panthers broke open the game in the third. Mason Smith was plunked – the only free pass issued by Morgan – leading-off the inning. Hartley flew out to center for the first out. Michael Lacy singled to left with a soft liner just onto the grass, and Alba-Golden had two on.
Easton Campbell put a high hopper into play to the Como-Pickton shortstop. The Eagles went for the force at second, but the throw went awry, and Smith came home.
After inserting a pinch runner – Donald McVay – for Campbell at first, Alba-Golden drew a throw to first after allowing McVay to be ‘caught’ off base. It was a classic baiting game. Lacy was able to time his run in from third perfectly and score. McVay was able to safely return to first in the play.
Gibson stepped in and hit a worm-burner right up the middle. The ball just made the outfield grass out of reach of the Como-Pickton second baseman behind second. McVay scored. The Panthers had their 4-1 scoreline.
Three excellent defensive plays and Gibson’s arm protected the 4-1 margin over the next three and a half innings.
Second baseman Boogie Trimble made the first defensive gem by gloving a tough ground ball on the shortstop side of second base. His throw just edged the runner for the first out in the fourth.
In the second critical play of the inning, catcher Campbell came out from behind the plate to field a popped-up bunt. He cleanly fielded it on the hop and gunned a throw to third to force the lead runner. Gibson got the next man out swinging, and the Panthers were out of a jam.
Centerfielder Glen Hartley provided the third defensive play-of-the-game. It came with one away in the top of the fifth. An Eagle batsman lined a pitch into left-centerfield. It was well hit and rolled to the base of the fence.
For anyone who doesn’t know the ballpark at Alba-Golden, it is not only expansive but has a considerable grade falling away in the outfield.
Normally, a ball rolling to the fence would go for a stand-up triple or possibly even an inside the park home run. The speed of Hartley chasing down the ball in center kept the runner to a double. The next Eagle hitter singled, which would have brought a run home for Como-Pickton were it not for Hartley’s wheels in centerfield.
Gibson gutted-out the sixth and seventh innings to secure the district pennant. His placement, control and velocity were spot-on. Gibson gave up five hits, struck out eight and issued one free pass.
Following the game, the team surprised Coach Jimmy Oxford with a presentation commemorating the coach’s 200th win. That win actually occurred April 6 against Cumby.
The week will be remembered for a long time at Alba-Golden. The boys and girls track teams had just won their district championships, and the baseball Panthers had their 2023 pennant.