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Calvary’s big third inning dooms PHS

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    PORTAL — A seven-run third inning for the two-time defending state champion Calvary Cavaliers (15-6, 9-1 Region 3-A) put them up for good as they knocked off the Portal Panthers (4-11, 4-7 Region 3-A) 12-4 Tuesday night at Panther field.
    Calvary pitcher Nate Hatcher went the distance in the win. It was a good thing for the Cavaliers, as they were resting some sore arms and trying to deepen a young pitching staff as the post season approaches.
    “We needed him to (go the distance),” said Calvary coach Kevin Farmer. “He did an excellent job on the mound. Usually, Nate plays third base for us. We have a young pitching staff, and we’ve been working Nate in to get us ready for the playoffs.”
    It was Hatcher’s first complete game of the season, and he credits his supporting cast for the win.
    “I want to thank my team for hitting the ball and giving me a lot of run support,” said Hatcher. “Overall, we hit the ball as a team real well. We played as a team, so all I had to do was get up there and throw strikes.”
    Both teams scrapped for runs in the game’s early going.
    The Cavs took and early lead, scoring a run in the top of the first without the aid of a hit.
    Portal responded in the bottom of the inning on a two-run blast by third baseman Derrick Finch that soared over the left-field fence, but Calvary tied it at two during the following inning.
    The Panthers took the lead for the second time when Nolan Clark crossed the plate following a pair of CDS fielding errors in the bottom of the second.
    Portal led 3-2 heading into the top of the third, but Calvary broke things wide open, plating seven runs and taking the lead for good. Each of the first six Cavaliers who led off the third crossed the plate, including three on Cody Padgett’s homer to straightaway center.
    Catcher Sam Thornton (3-for-4, 4 RBI) scored his second run of the game on a Hatcher sacrifice fly to center.
    Portal pitcher Chad Busby relieved starter Nick Boggs with the bases loaded and nobody out in the third. He pitched the game’s final five innings, holding CDS scoreless in three of them. He struck out four.
    “Busby (a sophomore) came in and gave us a chance right there — we were right where we wanted to be,” said Panther coach Tendai Haggins. “We’ve got to make better adjustments at the plate and hit the ball better as a team. We didn’t do that tonight, and the score showed it.”
    PHS crossed the plate the fourth time in the bottom of the sixth on back-to-back standup doubles by David Dampier and Luke Anderson to get within five, but the damage had already been done.
    The Cavs got their final three runs in the top of the seventh before striking out the side to end the game.
    With Calvary and Claxton dominating the top of the region, the final two spots in the state playoffs are wide open. A win at Emanuel County Institute Friday keeps Portal’s playoff hopes alive.
    “ECI is a big game for us,” said Haggins. “We’ve got to take one pitch, one inning at a time and play our best baseball. We’ll try to take care of us and let the baseball gods come in and, if it’s meant to be, help us out.”
    Notes: Before the start varsity game Tuesday, four Portal Panthers were honored on the team’s senior night. Finch, Dampier, Mickey Williams and team manager Lee Saxon were all acknowledged for their contributions to Panther baseball. Saxon had his first-career at-bat in the bottom of the seventh. … The Cavaliers recorded just three hits in the seven-run third inning. … Four Cavs crossed the plate twice in the game — Bubba Green, Padgett, Ross Howard and Thornton. … Hatcher struck out 10 Panthers in the complete game. … Portal walked nine batters and hit three. … The Panthers have beaten ECI twice this season, once in a preseason tournament and once during region play, putting together a seven-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to come back during the teams’ last meeting.
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.
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