Given Wednesday’s intermittent drizzle and plummeting temperatures, Liberty County High School baseball coach David Samuel was concerned field conditions would hamper his squad’s ability to play its home opener. However, the first pitch was thrown on schedule and the slugfest went five innings before the Panthers beat Bryan County High School 13-3.
"I wasn’t sure if we would be able to play because of the sloppy conditions of our field," Samuel said. "The recent monthlong rain has kept the field soggy and unplayable. All of the boys were excited to get the season under way. It was great to get on our home field and play baseball in front of a big crowd."
The team accumulated several early runs, starting in the bottom first inning.
Leadoff batter "Hammering" Cameron Harris walked to first, stole second and came home off a double by "Cool" Joe Watkins. Panther Brandon Whitmore hit one deep to left field, bringing Watkins home and putting the boys up 2-0 to start the second inning.
Panther pitcher Chris Rafferty struck out Bryan County’s first batter, and outfielder Sam Wilson snagged a deep ball. Rafferty struck out the next batter to keep the Redskins scoreless.
In the bottom of the inning, Wilson walked on base and Harris laid down a drag bunt for a hit. The Bryan County team made a throwing error, which allowed Harris and Wilson to advance to third and second. Watkins walked to first to load the bases.
Eddie Chipple hit a high pop fly and the infielder missed the catch. Wilson and Harris ran in to score. Whitmore came up with a single that let Watkins and Chipple score. The Panthers were up 6-0.
In the third inning, Rafferty slammed a double to center field, but was tagged as he headed for third base. Antonio Smith and Wilson walked to bring up Cameron Harris, who bunted to third and loaded the bases.
"Matt Desbiens followed with a towering shot to dead center field, merely missing a grand slam," Samuel said. "Joe Watkins then stepped to the plate and hit a laser over the left field wall for two RBIs."
The boys needed only two more runs to close the game on the run rule. Desbiens reached on an error and later scored on another miscue by the defense.
"Chipple made his way to third base after reaching on an error and Whitmore was at second base after a fielder’s choice," the coach said. "This brought up Javaughn Shuman, who hit a single to bring in Chipple and end the game 13-3."
Rafferty pitched four innings and recorded the win.
"It was great to get one on our home field and play baseball in front of a big crowd," Samuel said. "We will work to build from this performance to get stronger every day. We have high goals this year and hard work will take us there."
LCHS 13, Bryan Co. 3 (five innings)
Winning pitcher: Chris Rafferty
Leading hitters: Joe Watkins 2-2, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI; Cameron Harris 2-3, 3 R; Brandon Whitmore 2-4, 3 RBI; Matt Desbiens 1-4, 1 2B, 3 RBI; Chris Rafferty 1 2B; Javaughn Shuman 1-2, 1 game winning RBI