Panthers drop hard-fought series
Published 12:09 am Tuesday, May 21, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – They had the home team worried.
After falling behind 8-1 in Sunday’s winner-take-all game against Birmingham Southern, the LaGrange College Panthers came off the deck to get within two in the bottom of the eighth inning, and they had the tying run at the plate.
What had the potential to be a memorable comeback ended right there for the Panthers, though.
After getting out of the eighth inning with the lead intact, Birmingham Southern broke it open with six runs in the top of the ninth on the way to a 14-6 victory in the fifth and deciding game of the NCAA Division III regional.
While Birmingham Southern advances to this week’s super regional, a special season came to a close for LaGrange College.
Among the Panthers’ accomplishment was a third straight USA South tournament title, and they finished 32-12 to win at least 30 games for a fourth straight year.
The Panthers have also played in three straight NCAA Division III sectionals, and they’ve won two games in each of those appearances, although they’re still looking to break through and reach the super regional.
LaGrange College had a 2-1 series lead after getting a 6-4 win on Saturday, but Birmingham Southern evened things up with an 8-5 win to set up Sunday’s game five.
Birmingham Southern built a 7-0 lead after three innings in game five, and it held off LaGrange College’s late charge to take the series win.
Here’s a look at each of the games in the series:
LAGRANGE COLLEGE 6
When pinch-hitter Braden Shealy came through with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning, what had been a seven-run deficit for the Panthers was down to two.
The Panthers, with four runs already in, had the tying run at the plate when the inning ended.
Birmingham Southern salted the game away by scoring six runs in the top of the ninth inning.
EJ Churchich hit a solo home run for the Panthers, and Trey Pearce had two hits, including a double. McKinley Erves had a double, Shealy had an RBI single, and Austin McDade and Rhett Hollon each had a hit.
Eight different LaGrange College pitchers appeared in the game, including Spencer Douches, who held Birmingham Southern to one run in 3 1/3 innings.
Austin Brown threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings, and Austin Fain got the final two outs of the ninth inning without allowing a run.
LAGRANGE COLLEGE 5
Trailing 5-1, LaGrange College rallied to tie it with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, but Birmingham Southern plated three runs in the ninth inning to win it.
During the sixth-inning rally, Judd Moore had a sacrifice fly, and Trey Pearce delivered an RBI double before Braden Shealy tied it with a base hit.
JR Robinson did a solid job as the Panthers’ starting pitcher.
After giving up four runs (three earned) in the first two innings, Robinson held Birmingham Southern to one run over the next 5 2/3 innings.
Offensively, Pearce led the way with two hits and two RBIs, and Jack Layrisson had two hits.
Judd Moore had an RBI, and Joe Ruth, Shealy and Austin McDade each had a hit.
LAGRANGE COLLEGE 6
Spencer Douches delivered a lock-down effort out of the bullpen to help the Panthers hold on for the win.
Richie Post started and threw 5 2/3 innings, working around nine hits to hold Birmingham Southern to four runs.
Douches entered the game with two outs in the sixth inning, and he pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing two hits and no runs with three strikeouts.
Trailing 4-3, the Panthers took the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth, and they capped the scoring with a single run in the sixth inning.
Cael Chatham put the Panthers ahead with a two-run single in the fourth inning.
Jack Larysson and Rhett Hollon each had three hits for the Panthers, and Layrisson had two RBIs.
Austin McDade had two hits, Chatham had a hit and two RBIs, Joe Ruth had a single and an RBI, and McKinley Erves had a hit.
LAGRANGE COLLEGE 11
The Panthers enjoyed their best offensive game of the series with 13 hits and 11 runs.
The Panthers did a lot of their damage during a seven-run seventh inning.
Jack Layrisson had two hits and three RBIs, McKinley Erves and Joe Ruth each had two hits and two RBIs, and Trey Pearce had two hits and one RBI.
Austin McDade and Rhett Hollon each had a hit and an RBI, and Cael Chatham, Judd Moore and Liam Carbone had one hit apiece.
Gibson Bittner started and pitched 5 2/3 innings, limiting Birmingham Southern to five hits and two runs.
Tanner Chafin pitched the final three innings to get the save.
LAGRANGE COLLEGE 6
It was a tie ballgame when Birmingham Southern broke it open with nine runs in the fifth inning.
Jack Layrisson hit a two-run home run for the Panthers, and he also had an RBI single.
Austin McDade had a solo home run for LaGrange College, Judd Moore and Cael Chatham each had two hits with an RBI double, and Trey Peace and Rhett Hollon each had a hit.