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The toil of a long baseball season may be catching up with the Panthers. Sore arms and minor injuries impacted their Thursday, May 2 match up with Grant County, which the team ultimately lost 11-8. But head coach Jimmy Ray said he is not worried and was pleased with his team’s heart.
“We hung in there,” he said. “We were down 9-2 at one time and battled back.”
After giving up a home run in the top of the fourth, the Panthers answered in a big way.
Derrick Nickell led off the bottom half with a walk, followed by singles from Chase Osborne and Keifer McIntyre.
Coming off the bench to pinch hit with a sore shoulder, Zakk Hicks blasted a grand slam over the left field wall, igniting the Panther crowd and pulling his team back within striking distance, down 9-6. The Panthers got within two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but that was as close as they would get.
Hicks, who normally starts in the outfield or at third base depending on the situation, hurt his shoulder against Trimble County after he and the pitcher collided after Hicks hit an infield pop fly. Austin Dunn, who had caught every game for the Panthers this season, got a well-deserved break from the field and was the designated hitter against the Braves.
Starting pitcher John Michael Adams and relief pitcher Trey Boles both battled with sore arms.
After sitting the Braves down in order in the top of the first, Adams struggled in the second, walking five batters, giving up two hits and allowing a run to score off a balk.
With the score 3-1, shortstop Boles and Adams swapped places. The Braves’ Jordan Martin welcomed Boles to the mound with a two-RBI fly ball to center, 5-1. But the senior forced the next batter to groundout to Adams to end the inning.
The Braves scored again in the top of the third, 6-1, off of two hits and an error. The Panthers answered in the bottom of the third. After multiple fouls, Ray kept battling and singled to center field. With two outs, Adams hit an RBI double to center to score Ray, 6-2.
Things started rough for the Panthers in the top of the fourth, as Boles struck out the first batter, but the third strike was dropped and the runner was safe at first. Another Panther error put two runners on for Martin, who hit a home run over the left field fence, 9-2.
Two errors in both the fifth and sixth innings allowed runs to score. In all, the Panthers committed seven errors. However, Ray said part of this is because players were out of position. The team has been playing good defense lately, and he said he was not too worried.
“Trey’s arm is still a little sore and so is John’s,” he said. “They didn’t have their best stuff, but we hung in there and didn’t give up.”
Ray said Grant County’s second baseman also made two nice plays, one on a ball by Craig and another by Chase Osborne, that could have been hits.
“We just came out not ready to play,” Ray said. “You dig yourself a big hole, and it’s hard to come back from it. I thought we showed some heart, anyway.
“… We just need to be focused from the first pitch to the last pitch.”
Hicks was 1-1 with a home run and four RBIs. Justin Ray singled and doubled with an RBI, while Adams hit a double and collected two RBIs. Osborne hit two singles, while McIntyre also singled.
Adams pitched 1.2 innings, giving up two hits and five walks. Boles pitched 5.1 innings, giving up six hits, two walks and striking out four batters.