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Dueling aces don't disappoint
Burke County ekes past Panthers
jc lc hoffer
Skyler Hoffer pitched 6-2/3 innings and allowed only one earned run. - photo by Photo by Jimmy Courier
Friday evening, fans expected a pitching duel and that’s what they got as Liberty County’s Skyler Hoffer and Burke County’s Brandon Love locked horns for over six innings.
In the end, it was Love earning the win as Burke County (8-4, 1-0) won the Region 3-AAA south opener, 3-2.
Love pitched a complete game, allowing only one earned run and surrendering four hits. He struck out eight and walked three.
Hoffer used his 88-mph fastball to escape several jams throughout the game. He pitched superbly the first six innings but ran out of gas in the game’s final inning.
With the game tied at one, Burke’s Cole Thames started a two-out rally with a line-drive to right field. Next, Hoffer walked Cody Bolden and then Steven Quick broke the tie with an RBI-single.
Love proved he can hit as well as he can pitch as he added an insurance run with a single.
That prompted Liberty County (3-7, 0-1) coach Steve Cotrell to put senior Erik Mattingly on the mound to retire the final Bear batter,
Despite Hoffer being charged with the loss, Cotrell was pleased with his performance.
“Skyler did a heck of a job. I thought Skyler deserved better,” Cotrell said. “I should have got him two batters before. I could see he was a little tired. I asked him how he was and he said all right. He kept them off balance all day. He put us in a position to win and somebody has to step up and take charge.”
All but one of the Panthers’ seven losses this season has been decided by one or two runs. Cotrell said for his team to be competitive in the sub-region, they must win close games.
“I tell these guys, you got to win one run ball games,” he said. “If you want to be average, then you can always say almost but that only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades. So, our job as coaches we have to find a way to put nine guys out there that are going to believe and get it done. Tonight we had 3 or 4 guys who didn’t have confidence when they stepped up to the plate and at end of the game it showed in their eyes and actions.”
Playing in an ultra-competitive sub-region, which includes perennial state powerhouse South Effingham, Cotrell knows his team must win close games to advance to the state playoffs. In Friday’s loss, he believed that Burke was hungrier.
“We were outplayed by a team that wanted it more,” he said. “I told them in the fifth inning we are going to find out who wants it and to me I thought they got after it the last two innings and we sat back on our heels a little bit.”
“The kids played hard but we’re not doing the little intangibles you have to do to win close ball games.”
The Panthers started a little rally in the bottom of the seventh inning with Robert Walsh hitting a leadoff single to right field. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored off Kendrick Jones’ 2-out excuse me swing infield single. However, he was thrown out trying to steal second to end the game.
Liberty County resumes sub-region play at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Richmond Hill (7-4, 0-1). The Panthers’ next home game is 5:30 p.m. on Friday against Hephzibah (6-2, 1-0).
BC     000   001   2 - 3  6  1
LC      010   000   1 - 2  5  1

W - Brandon Love. L - Skyler Hoffer. Leading hitters - BC, David Braswell 2-4; Brandon Love 1-4, RBI. LC, Kendrick Jones 2-3, RBI; Robert Walsh 1-3, RBI; Erik Mattingly 1-3.
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