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Panthers win regional opener on the road 5-4
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The Liberty County Panthers edged out the Burke County Bears Friday night in a come from behind battle with a one run lead to take their first region game (5-4).
“That was big win for our program and our kids,” Panther coach Steve Cotrell said. “We knew this year that there was going to be some good pitching in our region and how many 1-run or 2-run ballgames we could win would indicate how well we are going to do in the region.”
Cotrell said his team appeared tight in the first few innings as if they were trying to make too much happen.
“We struggled,” he said. “We made an error in the first inning and the next guy hit a 2-run homer. And we were down 0-4 after three innings.”
Cotrell said the Bears had a left-handed pitcher on the mound who was throwing between 86-88 mph.
“He was hitting the spots and doing a good job keeping us off balance,” he said.
But in the top of the fourth things began to swing in favor of the Panthers.
“Aaron Hoffer hit a solo homer and the whole attitude of the team just changed,” the coach said. “Suddenly they felt like they can get the hits.”
Chris Arnold began finding the zone on the mound. He pitched six innings and had no earned runs scored against him.
Arnold also hit a 2-run homer in the sixth and the Panthers found themselves down only a run (3-4) going into the seventh.
With 1 out and a full count against him Kendrick Jones swung the bat, but got hit and the ball injured his thumb and it was called a foul. So Cody French had to come in to bat and was walked to first.
Skyler Hoffer was brought in next, but couldn’t advance the runners, making it 2 outs with runners on first and second.
Brad Harris hit the ball down the third base line, bringing in the runners and earning the final score.
The Bears kept themselves fired up by chanting throughout the game in an effort to throw the Panthers into a frenzy. But that may have backfired against them.
“I think they fired us up and did us a favor by all their hooting and hollering,” Cotrell said. “Our kids did a good job of keeping their mouths shut, saying positive things and staying in the game.”
Skyler Hoffer finished on the mound for the Panthers.
“For five innings they were in control of the game and our kids just kept battling,” Cotrell said. “I told them after the game and, I’m not one to pat them on the back a lot, but I told them I’ve never been more proud of a group of kids like I am tonight. The old Liberty County team would have dropped their heads and not fought back. These kids fought back for seven innings regardless of the situation."
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