Lakeside High School's baseball team respects region and county rival Evans.
The players and coaches feel the Knights could be the prime competition in Region 3-AAAA. That might have been why the Panthers didn't let up during both teams' region opener on Wednesday.
Lakeside blasted its way to a 12-2 victory in six innings at Evans. The Panthers launched four home runs the first three innings and never allowed the Knights back in the game.
"We thought it'd be a close game," Lakeside's Kody Belcher said. "We were just hitting the ball well."
Belcher hit one of the Panthers' home runs. Senior Zach Hayden hit two, and Jeffrey Stoner got one.
Hayden's first was a solo shot off the scoreboard in the first that followed a two-run shot from Stoner. Hayden and Belcher homered off Matt Blume in the third.
The romp continued a torrid pace the Panthers have set to start the season. The veteran group lost 12 seniors from last season's region title team, but returned a lot of experience.
That team reached the Class AAAA quarterfinals, and the current Panthers group set the goal to advance at least a step further.
The Panthers (5-0) beat rival Greenbrier to open the season and swept their two opponents at the Knights' Diamond Day games this past weekend.
Blume, normally steady and the star of the Knights' victory over the rival Wolfpack, wasn't allowed time to form a rhythm Wednesday.
Michael Farr replaced Blume after the Panthers scored three more during the fourth. Evans intentionally walked Hayden, and Farr struck out the first three batters he faced. It would take another couple of innings for the Panthers to tee off again. They strung five consecutive hits in the sixth and their first six batters reached safely during the inning.
Lakeside saw the Knights as a good test. Evans also reached the Class AAAA quarterfinals a season ago.
The Knights return their ace and senior center fielder Tevin Nelson -- who made a diving catch Wednesday to deny Stoner an extra base hit.
Evans coach Ricky Beale said the Knights needed to swing the bat better.
Tyler Barden and Donald Cockerham combined to go 5 for 5, but much of the remaining lineup was quiet.
"We've got to take advantage when we have opportunities," Beale said. "It's going to be a dogfight again. We got to take care of our end."
Davis and Belcher said the Panthers will expect the same.
"Evans is a good ball team," Davis said. "They're going to get it together and make a run at us pretty quick."
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