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Panthers drop Bears in 5
Walk-off homer clears green monster
Freshman Joe Watkins pitched all 5 innings, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 5 batters for the win. The young pitcher was backed up by a solid defense and some hard hits in the Panthers’ 10-0 shutout of the Burke County Bears. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
The season’s third game against the Burke County Bears turned out to be the charm as the Liberty County Panthers finished the Bears 10-0 in 5 innings Thursday.
The last score was a walk-off homer by Aaron Hoffer over the 380’ “green monster” wall.
The Panthers started their prowl toward victory in the bottom of the second, when Byron Calahan, Aaron Pringle and Kendrick Jones loaded the bases. Eddie Chipple got a hit, sending Calhan home.
Ethan Pringle hit a solid shot toward second base, but a Bear defender mishandled the ball and the throw to second. The Panther runner was safe. The Bears threw the ball to third and finally threw a wild throw to home in an attempt to get an out. Instead their error allowed Pringle and Jones to score making it 3-0 with only one out.
Henry Barrett loaded the bases again. Aaron Hoffer popped out. Sklyer Hoffer then walked, bringing in Chipple from third for the 4-0 lead to close out the inning.
Freshman pitcher Joe Watkins closed out the second inning with a strikeout and zipped through the third with 3 more in a row. He would finish all 5 innings with 5 strikeouts and one hit allowed.
Panther coach Steve Cotrell said the key to his pitching was getting his arm healthy.
“His last two outings on the mound have been impressive,” the coach said. “When he is locked in and focused he can do the job.”
In the bottom of the third with bases loaded, Barrett was at bat and a wild pitch allowed Jones to steal home making it 5-0. Barrett walked, loading the bases again with 2 outs. Aaron Hoffer walks, bringing in Chipple. A base hit by Skyler Hoffer brought in 2 more runs for an 8-0 score to end the inning.
In the fourth, Byron Calahan hit a solo homer that many said was the longest ball they’ve seen hit at Panther Field.
“It felt great,” Calahan said. “It was my first one in high school and it felt pretty good. As soon as I hit it I knew it was gone.”
In the top of the 5th two Bears hit the ball directly to Barrett in right field for 2 quick outs. The next Bear was thrown out at first.
Facing 0-9, Burke County did their best to avoid the run rule, getting 2 quick outs in the bottom of the 5th.
But Aaron Hoffer had other plans when he came to the plate. With a quick swing, the crowd cheered as the junior sent one over the 380’ center outfield wall. It was the first time in LCHS history that the homer cleared what is affectionately called the green monster.
“I like having that record so I’m glad,” Aaron said after the game. “I think we have a good shot of going far in the playoffs and I’m really excited about it.”
“It feels good to know we could finish the season on a winning note,” senior Kendrick Jones said. “We are going to the playoffs where I am hoping we can do a little bit of damage. This is the first time we played to our ability and it showed on the field and scoreboard.”
Skyler Hoffer was somewhat speechless after the game, saying he didn’t know what to say because they had never made it that far. The senior, who is scheduled to play for Middle Georgia College next year, said beside going all the way for the Panthers he hopes to take his career all the way to the Atlanta Braves.
The coach said the team has been focused throughout the last 2 games. The Panthers are scheduled to play either Cairo or Crisp County depending on the outcome of Friday’s game between the two. Either way the Panthers will have to do it the hard way, on the road.
“We are going to be the road warriors from here on out,” the coach said. “To be a great team you have to win on the road.”

Joe Watkins
Pitched 5 innings, 5Ks (w)
Eddie Chipple 2-2 with an RBI
Byron Calahan 2-3, HR
Aaron .Hoffer 1-3 HR (7)
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