In what promises to be a highly competitive baseball region, the Lakeside Panthers struck the first blow Friday night at Evans.
The Panthers scored twice in the first inning, and right-hander Hunter Hubbard made the lead stand up as the Panthers went on to the 4-1 win.
“The quality of the baseball program here at Evans, they’re one of the top teams in the state,” said Panthers head coach Jay Matthews, whose team improved to 6-1, 1-0 in Region 2-AAAAA. “Our kids have believed all year that we’re right there with them, and hopefully this will show people we’re one of the top teams around as well.”
The loss was the first for the Knights as they dropped to 5-1, 0-1.
Hubbard (1-1) kept the Knights off balance all night, bringing the heat to start the game then relying more on curveballs in the later innings, allowing just two hits while striking out eight in a complete-game outing.
Hubbard faced two bases-loaded jams in the last three innings and escaped unscathed. He got Matt Anderson looking at a curveball on the outside corner to end the fifth inning, then after two errors helped load the bases in the seventh, he blew a fastball past Anderson for the final out.
“I started out jamming them inside with the fastball and they kept popping it up,” said Hubbard. “They hit it a little harder in the middle innings and I had to keep them off balance with the curveball.”
Hubbard got defensive help in the fourth inning from shortstop Chandler Corley and second baseman Tyler Williams, both of whom had two hits apiece to account for Lakeside’s total. With a man on first with two out, RaeKwon Bennett hit a grounder that Corley had to dive for, then flipped to Williams for the final out.
Knights pitcher Tyler Williams (1-1) struggled with his command early and it hurt him as he hit a batter, walked three and threw two wild pitches as the Panthers scored two first-inning runs with just one hit. He would settle down, however, going four innings while giving up three runs on two hits while striking out seven.
The Evans defense, specifically Anderson, made plays that kept the game close. Anderson started a 2-3 double play with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning to squelch a rally. After Corley singled in an insurance run in the seventh, Anderson helped reliever Josh Roye out of another bases-loaded, one-out situation by throwing out a would-be base stealer on a strikeout for the final out.
In his first varsity game, Evans reliever David Rivera came in and pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run on one hit while striking out two before giving way to Roye in the seventh.
Jeremy Clements and Bennett doubled to start the Knights’ second inning, but that would be all they could muster. “We had chances, it was just one of those nights,” said Knights head coach Ricky Beale. “We get those guys twice again so maybe we can make things better for ourselves next time.”
In other Region 2-AAAAA play, Greenbrier (3-1, 1-0) held off Grovetown (5-1, 0-1), 5-3.