Panthers push past Jaguars in thriller

Published 10:56 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pelham pitcher Jack Pierce tossed 5.1 innings of four-hit baseball in a 4-3 win over Spain Park April 1. (Reporter Photo/Drew Granthum)

Pelham pitcher Jack Pierce tossed 5.1 innings of four-hit baseball in a 4-3 win over Spain Park April 1. (Reporter Photo/Drew Granthum)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Writer

HOOVER—While the AHSAA Class 6A baseball playoffs are still several weeks away, the Spain Park Jaguars and Pelham Panthers staged a contest for the ages April 1 on the Jags’ home turf.

After a mostly defensive struggle, timely hitting gave the Panthers a 4-3 win.

The game started with both Spain Park’s Mason Duke and Pelham’s Jack Pierce squaring off in a pitchers duel, each posting a shut out in the first inning.

The Panthers got on the board first in the top of the second when a Justin Anderson single scored Tyler Payne to put Pelham up 1-0.

Both pitchers held the opposing offenses scoreless through the middle of the fourth. In the bottom of the inning the Jags pounced, as a bases-loaded hit by pitch on Matt Berler brought in Dalton Brown to tie the game. Pierce then walked Austin Haight to bring in Brannan Martens to put Spain Park up, 2-1. With the bases loaded, Pierce retired the next two batters to end the inning.

After both squads went scoreless in the fifth inning, the Panthers’ offense used a fortunate bounce and a big at bat to take the lead. After Hunter Stovall was picked off in a close call at first, Tyler White struck out in what appeared to be the second out of the inning. The ball then bounced away from catcher Tyler Wise, and White reached first safely. White moved to second on a single from Payne.

The play of the game came a batter later when Logan Brashier crushed a pitch, hitting the wall and scoring White and Payne to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.

Anderson singled to left a batter later, scoring Brashier to put Pelham ahead by two.

Spain Park cut the deficit to one when a Berler single to center scored Alan Desantis to bring the score to 4-3.

Neither team was able to muster another run, however, and the Panthers clinched the 4-3 win.

Pelham head coach Sean Andersoncredited the win to his team’s attitude.

“The kids never quit,” he said. They just kept fighting. It’s a great group of kids. They’ve played together so long, it’s like 20-something brothers in there. They believe in each other.”

Anderson paved the way at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Alex Weeks got the win in a relief appearance, throwing 2.1 innings and giving up two hits, no earned runs and striking out two.

For the Jaguars, Berler went 1-for-3 with two RBIs at the plate. Duke led the way pitching, going 5.1 innings, surrendering five hits, two earned runs, two walks and a strikeout.