Prep Baseball: Harris hit sparks huge victory for Panthers
Dalton Harris may be up for a promotion in the Ledford lineup.
Demoted to the No. 9 slot after struggling recently from his leadoff position, Harris took it in stride, delivering a crucial hit and triggering a flood in the process.
With the Panthers down a run in the second inning, Harris came through with two outs and the bases loaded. His three-run double emptied the basepaths, leading to a seven-run inning that eventually turned into an 11-1, five-inning Mid-Piedmont Conference thumping of Central Davidson at Gary Hinkle Field Wednesday. The win keeps the Panthers in second place as they look to lockdown a playoff berth in the coming week.
“I told Dalton that is probably the biggest hit we have had all year,” said LHS head coach Chris Adams. “It could be the one that turns our season around and keeps us going in the right direction.”
The Spartans were looking to sweep the season series from the Panthers and got on top in the first inning. Jordan Lakey doubled to drive in a run, then pitcher John Hanes retired Ledford in order in the home half.
The second inning would change the landscape of the evening.
Ledford loaded the bases on Hanes but the struggling Harris was at the plate with two outs. One pitch away from escaping the jam, Hanes’ 2-2 fastball was smoked to center off the bat of Harris. Three Panthers circled the bases on the double to make it 3-1.
“We have been working on a good two-strike approach all year to choke up and get up in the box and see the ball,” said Harris. “I saw it well and luckily hit it over the center-fielder's head.”
It was the kind of hitting Adams had seen from Harris earlier in the season. But with recent troubles at the dish and improved hitting from Tebo White, the coach decided to change up things a bit. It turned out to be a coaching move gone right.
“I mess with the guys a little bit about where they are going to hit,” Adams said. “Tebo was down in the order and he started tearing it up, then Dalton was not hitting well and I moved him down. But as long as they are getting big hits with runners on base, I do not care where they are hitting.”
Having its lead of one flipped into a deficit of two, the Spartans were far from being out of the woods as the second inning continued for what must have seemed like an eternity.
White and Peacock singled in runs, then senior Austin Stilley clubbed a hit to center for a double that scored two more. Jordan Laws relieved Hanes and allowed the next two batters to reach, but got a flyout to right to end the inning.
Central skipper Matt Parsons said the way the second inning played out sums up just how the season has gone for his 5-10, 3-7 Spartans.
“It has been one pitch, one hit, one play away from getting out of it and getting over the hump,” he said. “I felt like we lost our composure a little bit and we have got to respond better than we did.”
After surrendering the run in the first inning, pitcher Michael Horrell never faced a serious threat again in going the distance. He retired the final 11 batters in order and gave up only two hits the entire day.
Ledford plated three more runs in the fourth as the 10-run mercy rule crept into play. Horrell singled in a run, two batters before Chaz Shields tattooed a ball to the shed beyond the left field fence for a home run. The two additional runs had the Panthers up 10-1.
Stilley singled in Peacock in the fifth to finish the night.
“We were seeing the ball really good,” said Harris. “Just putting it in play and making good swings. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Shields wound up a perfect 3-for-3 while Stilley was 3-for-4. Peacock and Harris completed their day with two hits each.
Ledford is 6-4 in the MPC, 10-6 overall.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.