Pair of big innings lead Panthers to 20-4 victory –
By Mark Carpenter –
Going into this 2018 spring campaign, Manchester head baseball coach Dustin Cook knew his team had some big holes to fill, with the loss of six seniors from last year’s squad, leaving the 2018 Hounds as a team with a good deal of inexperience, especially 60’6” from home plate.
The Greyhounds will rely on a number of unproven arms in 2018, after the losses to graduation and the preseason loss to injury of right hander Kaleb Henschen. Though Cook has a group of players that will be interchangeable at all of the other defensive slots, the key to matching last season’s 10-win total will be at the pitcher’s mound.
“Our biggest strength will be our versatility and ability to move people around,” says Cook. “But our biggest weakness will be our inexperience.”
The first test for the 2018 Hounds came on Monday, March 26 as they played host to the Portsmouth Clay Panthers in the season opener for both teams. The home team led through two innings before the Panthers exploded for nine runs in the top of the third, then added seven more in their half of the seventh to claim a convincing 20-4 road victory.
Coach Cook saw that pitching staff tested as he used five different arms in the loss, with 13 of the 20 Clay runs being of the earned variety.
In Monday’s game, the Hounds started righty Cade Colvin, and he escaped the top of the first, striking out two hitters. In the bottom half of the first, the Hounds’ offense drew first blood with two runs. Leadoff hitter Gage Lucas doubled to left and later scored the first run, racing home on a passed ball. Kaige Cox walked and came home an RBI ground out by Jacob Calvert.
The Panthers tied the game with two runs off Colvin in the top of the second, but the Hounds jumped back in front in the bottom half when Lucas came home on a bases loaded walk to catcher Kyle Reaves. That one-run lead was shot lived as the visiting Panthers ran Colvin from the mound and put up nine big runs in the top of the third, highlighted by a three-run homer to left by sophomore pitcher Dakota Dodds. The big inning gave Clay an 11-3 lead and they never looked back.
Manchester got one back in the bottom of the third when first baseman Jalen James doubled to left and came home on a passed ball in the vast expanse behind home plate on the Greyhounds’ home field.
Clay picked up single runs in the fourth and sixth off of Manchester relievers, while their own reliever, Jason Woods, was tossing four scoreless frames. In the top of the seventh, for good measure, the Panthers put up a seven-spot off of Lucas and Luke Thompson to finish off the convincing 20-4 non-conference triumph.
Clay starter Dodds got the win, going three innings and allowing all four Manchester runs. The big Panther third inning spelled the undoing of Manchester’s Colvin, who lasted 2 1/3 innings and was saddled with the loss, allowing seven earned runs.
At the plate, the Hounds got six hits in the game, two each by Lucas and newcomer Nathan Rife.
The Hounds were scheduled for back to back Southern Hills Athletic Conference games on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Tuesday game at West Union a victim of the weather, The status of Wednesday’s game with Eastern Brown was unknown as of press time. The Hounds were also slated to host the Western Latham Indians in non-conference play on Thursday, again if Mother Nature cooperates.
Clay Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Malone 5-1-1-2, K. Cottle 5-2-2-2, Jessee 3-1-1-2, J. Woods 1-1-0-0, Dodd 3-2-2-3, Conkel 1-1-0-1, Garrison 3-3-2-2, Whitley 4-2-0-0, McCleese 4-2-1-2, Richards 0-3-0-0, C. Cottle 1-2-0-1, Team 30-20-9-15.
Extra-Base Hits: K. Cottle 2B, Dodds HR
Manchester Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Lucas 3-2-2-0, Rife 4-0-2-0, Cox 3-1-0-0, Reaves 2-0-0-1, Calvert 4-0-0-1, James 2-1-1-0, Tumbleson 2-0-0-0, Colvin 1-0-0-0, Thompson 2-0-0-0, Reed 3-0-1-0, Team 26-4-6-2.
Extra-Base Hits: Lucas 2B, James 2B
Dodds (W) 3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 75 pitches
Woods 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 51 pitches
Manchester Pitching: Colvin (L) 2.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 59 pitches
Cox 0.1 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 24 pitches
Rife 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 48 pitches
Lucas 1.1 IP, 0 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 46 pitches
Thompson 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 25 pitches