The Saint Jo baseball team knew games were going to be tough when they reached the regional semifinal, but learned it Thursday night in Ponder.
Dodd City controlled the game for the most part and withstood a three run rally in the fifth as they held on to win 8-3 in game one of a best of three series.
The Panthers led off the game. The only runner to get on base was Wyatt Geurin, who reached first with two outs due to an error at shortstop. Unfortunately, the next batter lined out to third base.
The Hornets stung first and fast in the bottom of the first. With one out, three singles, a walk, a hit batter, a steal and a fielding error all led to three runs before pitcher Connor Thompson was able to strike out the next two batters to get out of the inning. Saint Jo trailed 3-0 heading into the second inning.
Logan Morman was able to get on base by drawing a walk with one out. After the next batter struck out, Morman was able to advance to second on a passed ball to put himself in scoring position. Unfortunately, another strikeout ended the scoring chance.
Dodd City looked to pick up where they left off. A leadoff single and two steals put the runner on third base. Two drawn walks loaded the bases and with two outs, Thompson looked to try to work himself out of a jam.
The next batter hit a hard ball into the gap between the shortstop and third base. It drilled the field umpire in the leg. One run did score, but with the deflection off the umpire, it kept the ball in the infield and did not allow a second run to score. After checking the umpire was okay, Thompson was able to strike out the next batter to end the inning. Saint Jo trailed 4-0 heading into the third inning.
The third inning went fast. The Panthers could not get anything going with their bats as they hit balls right to infielders on a fly out and ground out.
Thompson was starting to get going as his breaking ball started to be thrown for strikes. A one out bunt got a runner on base for the Hornets and a stolen base put the runner on second. Fortunately, Thompson forced a fly out to left field and a ground out to the shortstop to end the third inning.
Jake Morris got the first hit of the game for Saint Jo with a one out single. He was able to steal second as he slid around the tag. Morris then stole third as the third basemen could not handle the throw as it bounced out of his glove. Unfortunately, the next two batters struck out to end the scoring chance.
Dodd City was able to leadoff with a double. Thompson looked like he might be able to work around this as he was able to strikeout the next batter and forced a pop up to first base for two outs.
Unfortunately, the Hornets were able to string off three singles, a drawn walk and force an error at first to score three runs before the Panthers were able to force a fly out to center field for the third out. Dodd City led 7-0 heading into fifth inning. Things were looking dire unless Saint Jo started to make things happen with their bats.
Brock Durham led off the fifth inning with a base hit that was fumbled by the third basemen for a second, allowing him to beat the throw. Jose “Pepe” Gams then hit a single that got out of the infield. With a hit and run call on, Durham was able to reach third. Next batter Eli Jones then hit a hard ground ball to right field that scored Durham. The outfielder mishandled the ball for a second, allowing both base runners to advance to second and third. With no outs, the Panthers were showing some life.
Harper Roberts was able to drive in another run as a hard ground ball to the shortstop was mishandled for an error that allowed another run to score and Roberts to be safe. With runners at the corners and no outs, things did not seem like they were going to slow down anytime soon.
Roberts was picked off at first during the next at bat, with Thompson hitting a ball to the pitcher. The first basemen could not handle the throw as another error allowed another base runner to get on base while the runner on third scored to cut the lead to 7-3.
During the next at bat, Thompson stole second. Right as the batter struck out, Thompson attempted to steal third base and was thrown out to end the half inning.
Still the momentum seemed to have shifted. The only question was if the Panthers could get any more magic going with their bats again and if they could play clean defense.
Morris came in to pitch in relief. The leadoff batter was hit to get on base. He was able to advance to second on a ground out. A strikeout made it two outs. The next batter hit a single that did not get out of the infield to prevent the runner from scoring, but put runners at the corners with two outs.
The runner on first stole second, but Morris was able to strike out the next batter looking to get out of the jam and with Saint Jo still trailing 7-3 heading into the sixth inning.
The Panthers were able to put balls in play in the top of the sixth, but the string of sloppy fielding that allowed Saint Jo to go on their run in the previous inning was cleaned up from Dodd City as they made three solid defensive plays to move the game into the bottom of the sixth.
The Hornets leadoff batter was hit again. A ground out advanced the runner to second. With two outs, a batter hit a ground ball to the pitcher. The throw to first was good, but the first basemen could not handle the throw for an error. This allowed the runner on second to score to put Dodd City up 8-3 heading into the final inning.
With two outs, Jones was able to draw a walk. Next batter Roberts hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop, who again bobbled the ball for an error that allowed both runners to reach base cleanly and give Saint Jo some life. A wild pitch allowed both runners to advance to second and third. Unfortunately, the next batter grounded out to second base to end the game.
To read more, pick up a copy of the mid-week edition of the Bowie News.