Taking a sixth consecutive victory Monday at home, the Liberty County High School Panthers improved their overall record to 8-6 and their region mark to 4-2. The team beat SE Bulloch 13-3 in five innings.
The Panthers also defeated Washington County, 12-5, on Saturday in eight innings.
LCHS 12, WACO 5
The victory against the Golden Hawks allowed the Liberty boys to move into third place in the region. Thomson and West Laurens are tied for first with 5-1 records. This weekend, the Panthers will decide their fate as they host Thomson on Friday and play at West Laurens on Saturday. The boys will either take the top spot or move into a tie for second.
Panther coach David Samuel started Dylan Connelly against the Golden Hawks, and in the first inning he gave up three hits and two runs. WACO managed a small lead and closed the first inning up 2-1.
The Panthers stepped things up in the fourth inning when Joe Watkins walked and Cody French singled. Brandon Whitmore hit another single to score Watkins and tie the score at 2.
But the Panthers were trailing 5-2 after four innings and Samuel said he brought in Watkins as pitcher "to get the job done."
"Our sixth inning was productive because we scored one run. Whitmore was hit by the pitch, and Dylan Connelly hit a single to bring Whitmore in to close the gap to 5-3," the coach said. "Joe went back out and retired the WACO batters without incident. During the bottom of the sixth inning, while we were in the field, I noticed Joe getting stronger and I told coach Duncan that if we go to extra innings, we will win. Joe was getting stronger and WACO’s pitching was getting weaker."
In the seventh inning, Panther Matt Desbiens was hit by a pitch. Eddie Chipple and Cody French walked, loading the bases with two outs. Brandon Whitmore hit a hard, bouncing ground ball down the third-base line, which got past the third baseman. Two scoring runs tied the game at 5.As they entered the extra inning, Samuel said his squad turned up the offense. With a runner on base, Panther Trey Sikes hit a homer over centerfield. Cameron Harris hit a single and stole second base. Desbiens hit a sacrifice fly to get Harris to base and Chipple singled in Harris. Watkins walked, and Cody French had an RBI single. Whitmore came up again and got a base hit. Connelly got a double in his second at-bat of the inning and cleared the bases. Three more runs ended the game with the Panthers up 12-5.
"You could feel the momentum had changed and WACO pretty much gave up," Samuel said. "Joe went out and gave up a leadoff double, but then struck out the next three batters to end the game."
LCHS 13, SE Bulloch 3, five innings
On Monday, the boys hosted SE Bulloch in a non-region game and closed with a 13-3 victory in five innings.
The boys attacked the Yellow Jackets early, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning off a sacrifice bunt by Desbiens, a double by Chipple, an RBI by Watkins and a shot out to centerfield by Sikes.
In the third inning, Chipple was hit with a pitch. French walked on base and Watkins bunted in a run. Brandon Whitmore hit in French and Sikes hit in Whitmore. Dylan Connelly got an RBI to bring in Sikes. The Panthers scored off several Yellow Jacket infield errors and closed the fourth inning with an 11-1 lead.
Until the fourth inning, Chris Rafferty kept the Yellow Jacket batters in check. Whitmore came in during the fourth inning and gave up an unearned run off a dead ball foul after a Yellow Jacket hit an umpire with the bases loaded. The Yellow Jackets trailed 11-3 as the Panthers took their at-bat.
Patrick McDonald got on base and Connelly brought him in, closing the fourth inning 12-3 in the Panthers’ favor.
In the top of the fifth inning, Whitmore struck out two batters and Connelly made a play for the infield to stop the Yellow Jacket offense. The Panthers loaded the bases and the Yellow Jackets’ pitcher walked Watkins, giving the Liberty boys the game by the run-rule.
The Panthers host Thomson at 6 p.m. Friday.