Prep Baseball: Panthers blink first in 1-0 loss
Locked in a pitchers’ duel Tuesday at Gary Hinkle Field, the outcome was going to be decided by who blinked first. Ledford lost its focus on consecutive plays and Northeast Guilford jumped on the chance.
Two Panther errors in the top half of the seventh helped the Rams score the only run in a 1-0, Mid-Piedmont Conference decision. The loss overshadowed a tremendous effort on the mound by Bubba White, who lasted 6 2/3 innings giving up just four hits. Tyler Mericka was equally as impressive in going the distance while yielding three hits.
With goose-eggs on the scoreboard through six innings, Northeast got leadoff man Reed Jenkins aboard the base paths on a error to start the seventh. Matt Schorr stepped in to sacrifice bunt his teammate into scoring position, but got more than he bargained for. His bunt was sharply put down in front of the mound and White charged forward. He spun around to try and cut down the lead runner, but his throw sailed wide of the bag.
After a strikeout, White walked Calean Canady to load the sacks. With the infield drawn in, Jacob Watkins lifted a shallow blooper to right field. The ball fell to the grass and the Rams finally broke through with a run. Duke Boger replaced White to strike out the final batter of the inning.
“You cannot make those kind of errors in a game that tight in a big conference match like this,” said LHS coach Kemp Smith. “We let a big opportunity get away from us. It foiled a really good job by Bubba tonight.”
Ledford put men on first and second with two outs in their final at-bat, but came up dry. Struggles at the plate have been a recurring theme for the 4-5, 1-1 Panthers.
“We just have to keep swinging,” Kemp said. “We are more aggressive at the plate but we are not where we want to be. There are going to be some growing pains with a lot of new faces we have.”
White and Mericka faced the minimum in the first two innings before the Rams made a little noise in the third. They would get a runner to third but grounded out to end the inning.
Ledford made some spectacular defensive plays including a Boger putout from his second base position deep in the hole. But when they needed to make the simple plays in crunch time, the Panthers froze.
“That has been the story of our year,” said Kemp. “The routine plays are the ones we make hard and the hard plays are the ones we handle. I think sometimes the moment gets a little too big and unfortunately it manifested itself tonight.”
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.