With Columbia County schools on spring break, this week marks the midpoint of the baseball region schedule.
No team entered the off week on a higher note than Lakeside.
The Panthers entered last week facing Class AAAA No. 6 Greenbrier, No. 8 Evans and Statesboro, all in Region 3B-AAAA games. After a 5-0 loss to Greenbrier to start the week, Lakeside bounced back to beat Evans 6-4 Wednesday and knock off Statesboro 9-8 Friday.
Lakeside baseball coach Jay Matthews said the two wins came out of the loss.
"We played Greenbrier pretty tough, and our guys got some confidence from that," he said.
Lakeside converted its first subregion loss of the year into motivation. Panthers pitcher J.C. Huffman threw a complete game against Evans and went three-for-four from the plate with an RBI to lead the Panthers in their first win over Evans in their past four meetings.
Two days later, senior John Arena was the hero when his hit came with runners on first and third during a tie game in Lakeside's final at-bat to take a 9-8 win over Statesboro.
The walk-off hit was the final highlight in a game full of suspense.
"We actually went up 4-0 in the third inning, and then they came back and tied it at 4-4," Matthews said.
Lakeside responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to claim a 7-4 lead. The game didn't get any easier for the Panthers, as Statesboro countered with three runs in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game again.
"We were up 7-4 with six outs to go. In fact, we got the first two outs in the top of the sixth, but then they scored three runs," Matthews said. "When that happened, I saw the wind go out of our sails a little bit."
More bad news came in the top of the seventh, when Lakeside handed the lead to Statesboro on a hit batter with the bases loaded.
The Panthers got out of the jam with no more damage, thanks to a ground ball double play.
Arena came through in the bottom of the seventh when his hit plated the second of two runs scored in Lakeside's half of the inning to claim the 9-8 victory.
More than an emotional morale booster, the win lifted Lakeside into sole possession of second place in the Region 3B-AAAA standings with a 3-1 record.
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