Panthers open area play with win over Spain Park

Pelham High School senior Andrew Bishop took his position in the batter’s box in the seventh inning hoping Spain Park pitcher Chris Ellis would fire a fastball right down the middle of the plate.

Bishop got his wish. The Jacksonville State University signee pounded the fastball over the right field wall for a two-run homer to lift the Panthers to a 5-3 win over the Jaguars in their Class 6A, Area 10 opener March 9.

“I was on his fastball all night,” Bishop said. “I felt good up there. I was looking for a fastball over the plate to drive.”

Bishop’s fifth home run of the season was the highlight for the Panthers, who improved to 14-2 overall and 1-0 in Class 6A, Area 10. Bishop, who also had a single, led the Panthers at the plate as he finished 2-for-4 and drove in two runs.

Reed Bright finished 2-for-3 with a double, a single and two runs scored. Trevor Fitts earned the save after closing out the game with two strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Trae Santos started on the mound and gave up three earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and a walk in five innings. Hunter Pearson picked up the win as he struck out two batters in relief in the sixth inning.

Aaron Haag led Spain Park (11-5, 2-1 in Class 6A, Area 10) at the plate as he went 2-for-4 with a double, a single and two RBIs.

Ellis had a solid outing as he pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts and a walk. Ellis gave up three earned runs on seven hits.

Pelham coach Jeff Mauldin said he expected the game to come down to the final inning.

“We knew it was going to be a war coming in,” Mauldin said. “Every run was precious.”

The Panthers did most of their damage with clutch hits. Pelham scored three runs with two outs, including the two-run homer by Bishop.

“When we get two outs, we’ve got to finish the inning,” said Spain Park coach Will Smith.

Pelham got on the scoreboard first with a single run in the top of the second inning. Tripp Martin beat the throw to first base for an infield single, stole second and third base and came home on a passed ball to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Spain Park tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third inning. Zach Vardaman led off with a single to right field, stole second base, took third base on a Pelham fielding error and came home on an RBI single by Haag.

The Panthers responded with a run in the top of the fourth inning. Hunter Ragsdale reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI double by Parker Curry, which gave Pelham a 2-1 lead.

Pelham added to its lead with a single run in the top of the fifth inning. Bright led off with a single to center field, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, raced to third on a passed ball and came home on a sacrifice fly by Michael Bishop.

Spain Park tied the game at 3-3 with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jake Lee led off with a single and scored on an RBI double by Haag. Haag came home later in the inning after an RBI groundout by Ellis.

Bishop’s two-run blast in the top of the seventh drove home Bright, who led off the inning with a double, and sealed the win for the Panthers.

Smith said he should have been more selective as he was calling pitches in the seventh inning.

“It was completely my fault,” Smith said. “We went with a fastball. We should have gone back to a breaking ball.”