Friday night’s baseball game against South Effingham was an important one for Lakeside High School.
The Panthers have struggled in the three weeks since they last faced the Mustangs, and entered the game 0-5 in Region 2-AAAA play. Unfortunately, the Panthers’ slide continued as they lost a tough, eight-inning affair 6-5.
After a 7-1 start to the season, the Panthers (9-7, 0-6) lost to the Mustangs 15-3 on March 9.
Lakeside coach Jay Matthews kicked four players off the team after that game, and the team has lost six of eight games since.
“They’re doing everything we ask them to do,” Matthews said of his squad. “They’re working their tails off in practice.
“Catch a break here and there and we’ll get some region games and make people worry here in the end.”
Sophomore Cole Pittman started on the mound for the Panthers, but lasted only 42/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits.
Pittman was involved in a rare play in the top of the third. With the bases loaded and two outs, he threw a ball that bounced to the backstop. It rebounded right to him in front of the plate, where he tagged the runner attempting to score.
“I was kind of surprised it got back that fast,” said Pittman, who also went 2 for 4
with an RBI.
Reliever Hunter Hubbard allowed Tony Hunter’s leadoff homer in the top of the eighth inning for the winning run.
Hubbard (1-3) worked the final 31/3 innings for the loss. He surrendered three runs, only one of which was earned.
The teams combined for seven errors with the Panthers committing three.
Albee Johnson (4-1) picked up the win after getting the final out in the seventh and working a scoreless eighth. The Mustangs improved to 13-3, 4-2.
With two outs, the Panthers loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh.
Lane Wallace hit a long fly ball down the right-field line in foul territory and the right fielder ended the threat with a running catch.
Lakeside had other chances to gain separation, but stranded two runners in the first, second and fifth innings.
“Our last two or three games have been just like this,” Matthews said. “They (Panthers) give themselves some opportunities to win some games. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
Wallace was a central figure late in the game. With the Panthers leading 4-3, he committed two errors in the top of the fifth that allowed two unearned runs to score.
He led off in the bottom of the inning and quickly redeemed himself with a triple to center field. He would score the tying run on Tanner Durand’s sacrifice fly.