Panthers finally get to play at home
LAGRANGE – It took until the 15th game of the season, but the LaGrange College Panthers finally got to play on their home field.
LaGrange College, which was away from home for its first 14 games of the season, was in its home ballpark for the first time on Sunday as it hosted a doubleheader against USA South foe Piedmont.
The Panthers had their bats working in the series opener, with Casey Bell’s grand slam highlighting a huge offensive effort on the way to a 14-1 win.
In the second game, the Panthers were on base often with 10 hits, but they only managed a single run in a 3-1 loss.
The series finale will be at 3 p.m. today at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium.
The Panthers (10-7 overall) are 2-3 in the USA South, so they need a win today to even their conference record.
The Panthers put on an offensive show in the first game, with Bell providing plenty of the fireworks.
After giving up a run in the top of the first, the Panthers answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning on a Chad Pigg two-run double.
Tavin Thompson, a Callaway High graduate, led off the inning with a bunt single, extending his hitting streak to 16 games to start the season.
In the second inning, Bell hit his first collegiate home run, and he made it count.
After Joe Pradat, Keith Sims and Thompson each singled, Bell stepped to the plate and launched the ball over the outfield fence for a grand slam, giving the Panthers a 6-1 lead.
Any hope Piedmont had of making a comeback was squashed when LaGrange College scored six more runs in the bottom of the sixth to go ahead 12-1.
Blane Swift had a two-run triple in the second inning, Bell and Cain Sauls each had RBI singles, and Pigg knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The Panthers capped the scoring with two runs in the eighth inning.
Kyle Gutowski had an RBI single, and Pradat drove in a run with a groundout.
The beneficiary of all the offense was starter Eric Morell, who gave up just two hits and one unearned run in seven innings to improve to 4-1.
Zach Tatham finished the game with two scoreless innings.
In the second game, the Panthers had 10 hits, including two by Thompson, who pushed his hitting streak to 17 games.
The only run the Panthers scored came in the fourth inning, though, when Gutowski had an RBI single to bring in Swift.
The tough-luck loser was Ryan Broaderick, who came into the game having tossed back-to-back shutouts.
Broaderick went five innings, and he allowed two runs on three hits with a pair of walks and six strikeouts.
Jonathan Fleckenstein pitched two solid innings, giving up just an unearned run, and Austin Perez worked a scoreless ninth inning.
Thompson was on base three times from his leadoff position with two hits and a walk, but he was left stranded each time.
Bell and Swift also had two hits, and it was Swift’s base hit in the fourth inning that set up the Panthers’ only run.
Piedmont took the lead with two runs in the fourth inning, and it added an insurance run in the eighth inning.
OF NOTE: Tavin Thompson, the former Callaway Cavalier who transferred from Darton, is having a sensational first season with the Panthers. He has hit safely in each of the team’s 17 games, and he leads the team with a .439 batting average, and nine of his 29 hits have gone for extra bases. In his past four games, Thompson has nine hits, and he has 10 multi-hit games this season. Thompson, the Panthers’ shortstop, is also getting it done in the field with just four errors in 17 games…After today’s game, LaGrange College won’t be home again until March 22 when it hosts Oglethorpe.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports