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Panthers riding high at end of the season

Posted: April 4, 2015 - 11:06pm
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Evans' Raekwon Bennett is greeted by his teammates after hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday night against Greenbrier.                    Photo by Scott Rouch  Scott Rouch
Scott Rouch
Evans' Raekwon Bennett is greeted by his teammates after hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday night against Greenbrier. Photo by Scott Rouch

With the Region 2-AAAAA tournament a little over two weeks away, the Lakeside High School Panthers are starting to make an impact.

The Panthers have gone 2-1 in their past three games including a 4-3 win in eight innings over Evans on March 24 and then surprising previously unbeaten Greenbrier, 3-0, Tuesday night.

“Both the Evans win and the Greenbrier win were both pretty big wins,” said Panthers’ coach TJ Davis. “They were pretty much equal.”

Both teams turned in stellar defensive plays to back their starting pitchers who both pitched well, but it was a two-run homer by Panthers’ shortstop Raekwon Bennett in the fourth inning that turned the tide.

With Parker Leathers on first after a leadoff single, Bennett got a 1-1 change-up from Wolfpack pitcher Adam Sasser and belted it over the fence in left field.

“I figured it would be an off-speed pitch – I didn’t know if it would be a curveball or a change-up – but I stayed back, kept my hands back and took it for a ride,” Bennett said.

That hit made a winner of junior lefty Daniel Wiggins who followed up a seven-inning, no decision against Evans with a complete-game effort that included six strikeouts while limiting the Wolfpack (12-1, 6-1 region) to five hits.

“Toward the end all my pitches were working really good,” said Wiggins. “It was just a good night for me and the team. We played amazing, we couldn’t play any better.”

The fewest runs the Wolfpack had scored prior to Tuesday was five, which they did five times, and had a few chances to break onto the scoreboard but the Panthers (7-8, 2-4) made the plays they needed to for Wiggins.

With one out and a runner on second in the third, Bennett dove in the hole to keep the ball in the infield, preventing a score. Wiggins would retire the next two batters on fly balls. In the fourth with one out and runners on first and second, second baseman Leathers ranged far to his left to make a diving stop and complete the throw to first for the second out. Again Wiggins would escape getting a routine groundout to second to end the inning.

“It would have been a different score on the scoreboard without them, I honestly give all the credit to them,” said Wiggins, who said his change-up wasn’t working at first but all his pitches were by game’s end.

Davis likes the way Wiggins has been throwing the ball.

“The last couple of games he’s pitched very strong,” said Panthers’ coach TJ Davis. “That’s one of those games where he’s earned the right to finish.”

After retiring the first two batters of the fifth, Sasser surrendered two consecutive singles and a walk before Brandon Hensley drove in the Panthers’ final run with a single to left.

Wolfpack coach Jason Osborn thought his guys didn’t play up to their potential but tipped his cap to the Panthers.

“I thought we pitched well enough to win tonight but you’ve got to put some runs across the board and we never came close to doing that,” Osborn said. “We came out flat and Lakeside was ready to go and they took it to us.”

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