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The outdoor temperature was almost better suited for a hockey match-up than a baseball game when the Carroll County Panthers came to do battle with the Trimble County Raiders on the baseball diamond Thursday. Spectators who braved the cold either snuggled in blankets on the aluminum bleachers or huddled by their car heaters as the boys of spring held a frost fest on the field.
Catcher’s mitts, fielders’ and batters’ gloves were no protection for the lads as heavy, gray clouds cast a gloomy pall over the event.
In a game of back and forth, it was the Panthers who ultimately prevailed with a 9-6 victory.
“It was a great win,” Carroll County head coach Jay Jones said. “We’re going to have to learn to win ugly. We may never be sexy again (like last year’s team).”
Carroll got on the proverbial scoreboard (Trimble’s wasn’t functioning) early with a run in the top of the first inning. Trimble answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take what would be a short-lived advantage at 2-1.
In the top of the third, Carroll sophomore Dillon Craig hit a double and senior Tyler Gross knocked him in on a two-run homerun. Trimble answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, tying the score 3-3.
The Panthers took command in the fourth on the strength of a three-run homer by senior Zach Wise and an RBI triple by senior Ethan Stewart.
The Raiders loaded the bases on their offensive end of the next three innings but managed to get only one run across the plate in the process.
“We squandered a lot of opportunities,” Trimble County head coach Frank Ragland said. “I don’t know what the final count is but I’m guessing we left somewhere between 13-15 runners on base. We didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had to score. This is one we should’ve got. We had opportunities to win and we just didn’t get it.”
Jones said he was happy to get the win over a Raiders team that lost only one senior from last year’s team and has already beaten a tough Owen County team. The Panthers took an 11-1 “shlacking” from Grant County in their season opener away Tuesday and were unable to practice Wednesday because of a tornado watch. However, he said there were no complaints from his team about missing practice or the cold Thursday night. “They’re staying hungry,” he said.
After the game, Jones stressed to his veterans that if they step up and make plays, the young guys will follow their example. “I think we have the athleticism and key guys to be good,” he said. “On a given day we can battle with anybody or get it handed to us pretty good. … It was key to show we could turn it on and now we’ve just got to keep it on.”
The Panthers’ home opener was Tuesday against Switzerland County, they will take on Ludlow at home tonight. On Thursday, the team travels to Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington to play Franklin County. The game counts as a Carroll home game.