Panthers going for three-peat
Published 1:57 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was another phenomenal regular season for the LaGrange College baseball team.
Now, the Panthers will turn their attention to a quest for a third consecutive USA South tournament championship.
LaGrange College put the wraps on the regular season with a dominant performance against William Peace on Saturday afternoon at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium.
After winning the first game of the doubleheader 12-0, LaGrange College finished the sweep with an 11-0 victory to improve to 26-9 overall, and 17-5 in the USA South.
LaGrange College is the third seed for the USA South tournament, and it will take on sixth-seeded Greensboro in the opening round on Thursday at noon at Point University.
The eight-team, double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday, and the winner will earn an automatic invitation to the NCAA Division III tournament.
There’s a good chance the Panthers have already done enough to secure an at-large NCAA bid, but they can remove all doubt by winning the conference tournament for a third straight time.
The Panthers are rolling under head coach David Kelton.
Since the start of the 2016 season, the Panthers are 126-46, and they’ve got a chance to reach the 30-win mark for a fourth straight year.
The Panthers have been at their best against conference opponents this season.
The Panthers have played eight conference series, and they’ve won them all.
LaGrange College closed conference play by dismantling William Peace.
There were originally going to be three games in the series, by Friday’s game was canceled because of rain.
Before Saturday’s games, the team’s seven seniors were recognized, and the Panthers then went out and dominated the doubleheader in every way imaginable.
In game one, the Panthers scored single runs in the first and second inning before breaking it open with four runs in the bottom of the third and six more runs in the fourth inning.
The game ended after seven innings because of the run rule.
Jack Layrisson did a lot of the damage for the Panthers with two hits and three RBIs, and he was a home run away from hitting for the cycle.
Judd Moore was on base three times with a hit and two walks, and he had two RBIs.
Austin McDade had two hits and three RBIs, and he drove in a run with a double in the second inning.
Joe Ruth had a hit and two RBIs, Trey Pearce knocked in two runs, and McKinley Erves had two hits and three runs scored.
Tripp Bridges, a senior catcher who has played sparingly over the years, got into the game and had a base hit.
Another senior who has been unable to play because of an arm injury, was able to get onto the field at the end of the game. With two outs in the seventh and final inning, Ryan Ross played right field.
Richie Post was the starting and winning pitcher.
Post pitched five scoreless innings to improve to 6-1, and Austin Brown threw the final two innings.
In the second game, it was scoreless when the Panthers busted through four five runs in the fourth inning.
The Panthers added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh before completing the scoring with two runs in the eighth inning.
Rhett Hollon’s bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning drove in three of the runs.
Trey Pearce had a three-hit effort with two RBIs, and he had a double during the four-run eighth inning.
Joe Ruth had two hits and an RBI, Judd Moore had a base hit with two RBIs, Cael Chatham and Austin McDade each had an RBI, and Jack Layrisson had a hit and a walk.
As was the case in the first game, the pitching was outstanding for the Panthers.
Austin Fain (5-0) started and threw seven shutout innings, and Gibson Bittner pitched the final two innings.
Fain and Bittner combined to hold William Peace to three hits.
OF NOTE: The LaGrange College seniors are Tripp Bridges, Austin Brown, Austin Fain, Rhett Hollon, Trey Robinson, Ryan Ross and Braden Shealy.