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Panthers open season with 8-2 win over PCHS
Antonio Smith dives back to first base safely during Wednesdays win over Pierce County. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Liberty County opened its diamond season with an 8-2 win against Pierce County on Wednesday evening at home.

The Panthers trailed, 2-0, going into the bottom of the second inning before coming alive and scoring five runs.

Panther Antonio Smith got on base after the Pierce County catcher was called for interference.

Smith advanced to second when Matt Desbiens clobbered the ball into center field. Javaughn Shuman hit one to the same spot to score the first Panther run.

With two outs, Cameron Harris hit one to the same spot to score two runs.

Brandon Whitmore drove in Harris, and pitcher Joe Watkins hit one off the left-field wall to score the fifth run.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Panthers scored another run and had a runner on base when Watkins smacked a two-run home run.

Watkins, who has committed to Georgia Southern, controlled the Pierce County batters. He struck out 12 in five innings while giving up three hits, two runs and a walk.

In the sixth inning, Whitmore stepped to the mound and got a strikeout before Trey Sikes relieved him in the seventh and struck out out the last two Bears batters.

Panthers head coach David Samuel said the victory was nice considering they played a tough team and it was their first game.

"Pierce County has a great baseball tradition," he said. "To beat a team like them by six runs in the season opener is a good, solid win. The boys played far better last night than in the Bradwell scrimmage game. We hit the ball well, ran the bases well, defense was solid and pitching was solid. If we can build on that win and improve our skills each day, we will be a tough team to deal with as the season progresses."

But the win was a bit melancholy, even for the Panthers.

Pierce County is still recuperating from losing players Layne Dixon and Holt Rowland.

The two were killed in a car accident in November 2010. They were coming home from baseball conditioning when the accident occurred.

Samuel said he learned about the team’s tragedy after the game when he spoke to Bears baseball coach Keith Mobley.

The Panthers’ are scheduled to play Pierce in Blackshear on Saturday and the coach said the conversation inspired his players to honor the Bears’ fallen teammates.

"Saturday will be their home opener, so the team is going to have a ceremony for the boys and their families," Samuel said. "Coach Mobley will have the two boys in the starting lineup for the first two pitches of the game. Cameron (Harris) will take both pitches for balls, and then the team will give each family one game ball."

Saturday’s game is scheduled for 3 p.m.



Joe Watkins, 2 for 3, 2B, HR, 3 RBI; Cameron Harris, 2 for 3, 2B, 2 RBI; Brandon Whitmore, 1 for 3, RBI; Javaughn Shuman, 1 for 3, RBI; Matt Desbiens 1 H.

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