Stellar season ends for Panthers

Published 5:50 pm Sunday, May 20, 2018


Daily News

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – A special season came to a close for the LaGrange College baseball team with a tough loss to Christopher Newport in the NCAA Division III tournament on Saturday.

After opening with a loss in the six-team regional in North Carolina, LaGrange College bounced back to win two straight games, and it had a 3-0 lead over Christopher Newport on Saturday.

Christopher Newport rallied for four runs in the seventh inning, and it held on for a 4-3 victory to end LaGrange College’s season.

The Panthers (30-18) enjoyed a stellar season under head coach David Kelton.

The Panthers won at least 30 games for the third straight year, they won a second straight USA South tournament championship, and they went 2-2 in the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.

LaGrange College began its stay in the NCAA regional with a 2-1 loss to Randolph-Macon on Thursday.

LaGrange College bounced back to beat Alvernia 2-1 on Friday, and it followed that up with a 9-5 victory over The College of New Jersey on Saturday.

That set up a showdown with Christopher Newport, and things seemed to be going well for LaGrange College after it scored single runs in the first, third and fifth innings go to up 3-0.

Christopher Newport tied it on a three-run home run by Nicholas Baham in the seventh inning.

In the same inning, Ryan Grubbs’ RBI double gave Christopher Newport the lead.

Jacob Gassert led the offensive effort for the Panthers with three hits, including a solo home run in the third inning.

James Poropatic had an RBI double in the first inning, and Gasssert scored on a McKinley Erves groundout in the fifth inning.

Zach English was the Panthers’ starter, and he delivered an admirable performance after pitching 4 1/3 innings earlier in the day.

Against Christopher Newport, English pitched six scoreless innings before giving up the game-tying three-run home run in the seventh inning.

“What an effort,” LaGrange College head coach David Kelton said. “Zach English was amazing tonight. This group of guys fought and left it all on the field. I am one proud coach.

Gibson Bittner, who had a phenomenal freshman season, allowed the go-ahead home run.

That was the only run Bittner gave up in his three innings, but LaGrange College was unable to push the tying run across.

In Saturday’s first game, English saved the day with his masterful effort in relief of Austin Fain.

English threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, and he held New Jersey to no runs on two hits, and he had six strikeouts.

The game was tied at 5-5 when LaGrange College scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take the lead.

Erves, Rhett Hollon and Dawson Weaver each had two hits, and Hollon and Weaver each drove in a run.

Poropatic and Gassert each had a hit and two RBIs, Rhett Mixon and Jackson Patrick each had a hit and an RBI, and Austin Jones had a hit and a walk.