Liberty County High School’s first-year baseball coach Joel Moody can recall wearing a Bradwell uniform, playing for Tiger baseball 35 years ago. He said his father Jerrell Moody helped build the dugouts on Tiger field.
So his first win as a head coach on the diamond he grew up on was bittersweet. The Panthers beat the Tigers 11-2 in Monday’s scrimmage.
“This is one that I will never forget for the rest of my life,” he said. “I sat in that dugout… This win runs deep.”
Both squads kept things in check until the top of the third inning. Panther Michael Lovelady got the momentum rolling in the Panthers’ dugout, earning two RBIs with a grounder up the third-base line. With Panthers on second and third, Jake Lee hit a deep ball to left field for a RBI. Lovelady advanced to third and later stole home off a wild pitch to give the Panthers a 4-0 lead.
The Panthers kept the momentum alive scoring three more runs while facing two outs.
Panther Curtis Michalowicz pitched three innings and Lee came took over in the bottom of the fourth. Lee struggled a bit to find his stride as the Tigers got two hits and loaded the bases with a walk. Lee then walked Adam Corwin for the Tigers’ first run.
Tigers coach Rhett Hellgren said he was evaluating every position and rotated several pitchers throughout the game. Jacob Dill started, with Matt Brown, James Moon, Mitch Rogers and others getting time on the mound.
“We have positions up for the taking and whoever gets the job done will come out on top,” Hellgren said. “We saw some good performances from younger pitchers that I was happily surprised about. It will make it more difficult, in the long run, to see who gets the ball on the mound. And you can never have too much pitching.”
In the sixth inning, Panther Antonio Smith walked and then stole second. He advanced to third when the pickoff throw was overthrown. The Panthers loaded the bases and Richard Lovelady earned an RBI, scoring Smith. Michalowicz hit one to right field for a RBI to give the Panthers a 9-1 advantage. The visiting team closed the inning up 11-1.
Hellgren said, “I am glad that everyone got a little taste of real game situation. I know our kids are disappointed that we did not play as well as we could, but that is good that they know that we can play better and continue to improve.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Tigers earned their second run off a walk.
“We need to work on concentration and intensity,” Hellgren said. “ ...We also need to understand what the situation is at the plate. Our situational hitting was disappointing, but we have been out here for two weeks and it will definitely get better as the season gets rolling.”
Moody said he was pleased with the performance of his players.
“We hit the ball well and we played good as a team,” he said. “We played pretty good defense and Curtis and Jake just threw the daylights out of the ball.”
But, he said, they still have things to work on.
“We need to throw a few more strikes,” he said. “We allowed a couple of guys on base, and defensively, I thought we played well, but we need to focus when we get ahead in the count.”