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The Panthers jumped out to a 5-0 lead and managed to hold off a late-surging Raiders squad to get the win, 5-4, in their home opener Thursday, March 22.
“I’m really happy about that because we’ve had trouble with (closing out games) in the past,” Carroll first year head coach Josh Mefford said. “We’ve had those bad innings where we’ve kicked the ball around, but this time they hit the ball … We kept our heads in it, and we made the plays we were supposed to make.”
Carroll scored its first run in the bottom of the second. Zach Beckham was hit in the back with a pitch, giving the Panthers a runner on base. He stole second and was in scoring position when Brandon Franklin came up and hit a two-out, RBI single to center field.
The Panthers’ big inning came in the third. Leadoff Austin Dunn earned a walk and Jacob Wise moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Dillon Craig hit an RBI single past first base, 2-0. John Michael Adams followed with a single over third base, putting two runners on for Trey Boles. Boles hit an RBI double to left field, 3-0. Then Adams scored on a passed ball, putting the Panthers up by four. Trimble finally managed to stop the bleeding, as pitcher Zack Beard struck out the next two batters.
Neither team could get things going in the fourth, as the game rolled on into the fifth. In the bottom half of the inning, Adams started things off with a single to right centerfield. He advanced to second on a stolen base and on to third when Boles was called out on a dropped third strike play. Adams scored on a passed ball, giving Carroll a 5-0 advantage.
But the Raiders would not go down without a fight. Jordon Tingle hit a single down the third base line, and Daniel Haney followed with a single of his own into right centerfield. Dylan Staples batted in Trimble’s first run of the game with an RBI single to third base. With one out, Conner Beard hit a double to left field, scoring two runs, 5-3. Carroll County managed to get the next two batters out, ending the scoring spree.
The Panthers went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, as the game headed into the seventh. With two outs, Tingle stepped back up to the plate and hit a grounder to the shortstop and managed to beat out the throw. Haney hit another single, putting runners at the corners.
Haney attempted to steal and catcher Zach Beckham’s throw to second sailed into the outfield, allowing Tingle to score, 5-4.
However, Beckham would vindicate himself on the very next play. Staples hit the ball to the shortstop and beat out the throw to first. First baseman Keifer McIntyre threw home to Beckham, who tagged out Haney as he got caught up between third and home.
Trimble head coach Frank Ragland said Haney got caught up in the excitement as he rounded third too wide, something that can happen to anyone. But that play “wasn’t the difference in the game.
“It was one of those things we didn’t get our bats going until late,” Ragland said. “I thought we would have hit (Boles) better than early on, but we didn’t. We finally got our bats woke up and put some runs across the board. The real difference in the game was they fielded balls at them and we didn’t. We made a few mistakes defensively that gave them a few runs and that was the difference.”
Ragland said he thought Beard and reliever Robbie Brooks did an excellent job on the mound and credited his team for not giving up.
“We gave ourselves a shot,” he said. “If we can learn from this, we’ll be OK, but it’s never easy to lose when you get that close. We played a tight game at Henry County the other night, but I think we’re getting better every time we step out on the field and we’ll see how the rest of the season goes. But we’re two games in to a 34-35 game season, so we’re not far enough into it. As long as we see improvement, I think we’ll be pretty tough.”
Mefford said although Boles did not pitch his best stuff, he had a good overall game against the Raiders. He also praised Dunn and Wise for their play. Dunn got on base with three walks his first three times to bat and hit a solid fly ball to right field in his finalat-bat. Wise was 1-4 with a single, but also perfectly executed a sacrifice bunt when his team needed it.
Mefford said he was a little disappointed with his team’s hitting because of how well they hit against Grant County earlier in the week. “Otherwise, we stayed in the game. We caught the balls we were supposed to catch, we made the plays we were supposed to make so a win is a win. I’m happy with it.”