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Panthers beat Wildcats, move on to championship

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By Kristin Beck

Carroll County Panthers baseball earned a team win Tuesday night in the 31st District Tournament, defeating host Henry County, 6-2. They advanced to play Owen County in the championship Wednesday at Henry County. Results of that game were unavailable by press time. By making it to the championship, the Panthers and the Rebels will both play in the 8th Region Tournament next week, with the site yet to be determined.

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“All in all, it wasn’t our best game, but it’s a win,” head coach Jimmy Ray said. “We advance on and make it to the Region, step in the right direction.”

The Panthers have not been playing their best ball lately, but made enough good plays to win over the Wildcats.

Junior Zakk Hicks earned the win on the mound, throwing a complete game. He allowed nine hits, but struck out nine batters and walked just two.

The Wildcats put two runners on in the top of the first with a single in shallow right field –between a diving Austin Crowell at second and Jackson “Boo” Donahue in right – and a walk. But with runners in scoring position, Hicks shutdown the Wildcats with a strikeout.

The Panthers followed suit in the bottom half, as Austin Dunn reached on a hit-by-pitch, Keifer McIntyre singled to right and Seth Hicks drew a walk to load the bases. But a groundout to second ended the offensive stretch.

Henry threatened early in the top of the second as leadoff Bodie Clark singled into leftfield. A check down throw by Zakk Hicks to McIntyre was wild and went into the outfield. Clark rounded second, and McIntyre made a throw like a bullet to tag him out at third. Hicks struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Jacob Wise hit a two-out single in the bottom of the second, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball, but was left stranded.

After taking the Wildcats down in order, the Panthers got things going in the bottom of the third. Dunn led off with a single past shortstop, and Zakk Hicks and McIntyre followed with walks to load the bases. Seth Hicks hit a two-RBI double to left field to put the Panthers on the board, 2-0.

Wallace took a pitch to his back shoulder, prompting a Henry County pitching change.

Blake Prather took the mound, and John Michael Adams hit a weak grounder to third base. Prather attempted to pick it up, bobbled it and shoveled it to the catcher, but McIntyre was safe at home, 3-0. After a force-out at home, Wise hit a groundball to third. The throw home for the force was high, allowing Wallace to score, 4-0.

Henry County responded in the top of the fourth, leading off with a single to right field. A fielding error allowed the first Wildcat run to cross the plate, 4-1. They followed up with another single, but Zakk Hicks and the defense settled down after that as Hicks struck out two batters and the last popped up to Crowell to end the inning.

In the bottom of thefourth, Zakk Hicks led off with a double to left field. He advanced to third on a grounder by McIntyre, and Evan McMahan subbed in as a courtesy runner. Wallace hit a groundball past second base for an RBI, 5-1.

After a leadoff strikeout, the Wildcats’ Landon New doubled into the left field corner, and Brad West walked. Mason Fish hit an RBI single into shallow left field for Henry’s final run of the night.

The Panthers scratched their final run of the night in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, McIntyre doubled to center field. The Wildcats intentionally walked Seth Hicks, bringing up Wallace. The senior designated hitter also drew a walk to load the bases for Adams. Adams walked to earn an RBI and score courtesy runner Tyler Stewart, 6-2.

Ray said Zakk Hicks had a good night on the mound and noted that Wallace had a couple good at bats, including the RBI single. While he did not hit, Ray said Crowell made several plays at second base for their defense.

“It was a good team win, and that’s kind of what our mojo is,” Ray said. “We don’t have the big superstar; we’ve got several good players and several good kids and that’s the big thing for us.”

No. 4-seed Owen County won two straight to make it into the championship: a 10-0 win over No. 5-seed Eminence Monday and a 5-0 win over No. 1-seed Gallatin County Tuesday night.

The Panthers won both matchups against the Rebels this season: 8-4 April 10 at home in the All ‘A’ and 9-6 in Owenton April 22.

“Tomorrow night’s game is going to be a handful,” Ray said Tuesday. “It’s Owen County; they’re a good team. We’ve played them twice this year and we know a lot about them, they know a lot about us, so it’s going to be whoever can hit the hot stick tomorrow. They threw their best pitcher today, we threw our best pitcher today so we’ll see who is going to come up tomorrow and throw strikes and play good defense. I think we’ve got a pretty good chance, but we’ve got to play better than we did today.”