The successful season for the Lakeside Panthers baseball team came to a crashing halt Wednesday night.
The Whitewater Wildcats made the plays they needed while the Panthers didn’t, leading to a 4-3, 7-0 sweep, knocking the Panthers from the second round of the Georgia High School Association’s Class AAAAA state baseball tournament.
Up 3-1 in game one with starter Hunter Hubbard fending off the Wildcats (24-7), the Panthers defense imploded, committing three of their six errors in the final two innings, allowing the Wildcats to rally for the win with three unearned runs.
In game two, the Panthers (19-9) mounted just one serious offensive threat, loading the bases in the sixth inning with two outs, but couldn’t push any runs across.
“We run Hunter (Hubbard) out there in game one and he gave us an opportunity to win,” said Panthers head coach Jay Matthews of his starter who battled for six innings, allowing the four runs (one earned) on seven hits while striking out eight and walking four. “Once we didn’t get that one, it’s probable some of the guys let down, but we had confidence coming back with Cole (Pittman) because he’s been throwing great lately.”
Pittman (7-2) allowed four runs on six singles in five innings, but the Panthers couldn’t do much with Wildcats starter Ethan Gillis (5-1) who gave up two hits apiece to Tyler Williams and Chandler Corley.
The Panthers took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of game one. Lane Wallace walked, McTier Mosley singled and Tanner Durand walked to load the bases. A walk to Stephen Hutto drove in a run and Hunter Banks’ single plated two more.
Meanwhile, Hubbard was working out of scrapes. He allowed the first two batters to reach in the second before striking out the side. He got the first two outs in the fourth, walked the bases loaded then got another strikeout to end the inning.
The Wildcats scraped a run across in the fifth on a walk and two singles, before two errors led to two runs in the sixth for the Wildcats.
The Panthers had a chance to regain the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Hutto singled with two outs, but Durand was gunned down at the plate trying to score from second.
In the seventh, the Wildcats Hunter Benning led off, advanced to third on a three-base error and was promptly singled home with the winning run by Nick Fuerstenan. The Panthers refused to go quietly with consecutive two-out singles in the bottom half, but couldn’t score.
“We honestly felt like we lost game one, we didn’t feel like they beat us,” said Panthers head coach Jay Matthews, whose Panthers commited six errors. “We probably could have made some plays, but you know what, that’s baseball.”
Matthews pulled his upperclassmen to the side after the game.
“We had eight seniors and I told them I was proud of what they were able to accomplish this season,” Matthews said.