Prep Baseball: Panthers second in MPC race after 5-0 win
The only certainty in the Mid-Piedmont Conference baseball standings is Southern Guilford will be the regular season champion. Positions 2-7 are wide open and Ledford took a step in the right direction Thursday in becoming the second-best team.
With seven strong innings from Michael Horrell on the mound and a clutch hit by senior Austin Stilley, the Panthers turned a scoreless game in the fifth into a 5-0 shutout of North Forsyth at Gary Hinkle Field. The victory puts them into second place all alone at 5-4. NFHS is 3-6.
“The way the league is shaping up right now, from second to seventh it is one game separating everybody,” said Ledford skipper Chris Adams. “Right now we are in second, so if we can take care of our business from here on out we are going to be the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament and hopefully we can get us a home playoff game. We just gotta go one at a time.”
Offense was minimal as Horrell and Viking hurler Ty Walser were locked into a battle on the rubber.
The Panthers finally got to Walser in the fifth, using an error to start the inning to their advantage. Garrett Hooker got aboard on the error at third base and was lifted for pinch runner Tristan Lovett. With Dalton Harris going down swinging without moving the runner, Lovett got the sign to steal second and he did. Connor Peacock walked to put two on, but Horrell struck out looking, leaving the Panthers only one out to get the job done.
LHS had the man they wanted at the plate with Stilley stepping in. The left-handed hitter sent a laser to right that looked as if it might leave the yard. It stayed in and hit the base of the fence, but the double scored two runs and gave Horrell all the support he needed.
“Luckily we had a senior step up to get a big hit,” said Adams. “That is what we tell the guys to do. This team is not going to beat and bang it all over the park. We have to find a way to get runners on and move them over.”
Down in order the top half of the sixth, the Vikings turned to their bullpen and selected Sasha Mussetter. He struggled at times, offering up a couple of wild pitches and pair of singles. Two of the three runs scored in the inning were on wild pitches, while the other came on a fielder's choice.
Up 5-0 in the last frame, Horrell was facing one of his few challenges on the night with two runners on and only one out. He bounced back, striking out Walser with the second out and getting Nathan Noah to hit a grounder at first baseman Jonathan Turner, who fielded the ball cleanly and stepped on the bag for the final out.
It was the kind of win Ledford needed after recent close games not falling their way.
“We still have not played our best baseball yet, but we are just battling through,” Adams said. “It has been a struggle for us at times, but they keep working and we had a great week of practice. Tonight it carried over into the game.”
Horrell (3-2) allowed only three hits in the shutout. Tebo White went 3-for-3 with a run scored, while Stilley had two hits.
Next up for the 9-6 Panthers is a league game with Central Davidson Wednesday in Wallburg.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or email@example.com.