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Panthers pound Claxton

    Brett Rivers pitched a complete game and Brandon Mock scored three times and drove in two as the Portal Panthers topped the Claxton Tigers 16-6 on the third day of the SEB Yellow Jacket tournament.
    The Panthers started off hot at the plate as they scored eight times in the first two innings against Tiger starter Kenny Deloach. Mock started the scoring for PHS when Tagg Lanier ripped an RBI double that hit the top of the wall, popped into the air, and landed in play. That double was followed by four consecutive hits by the Panthers, and Claxton was not able to get out of the inning until Tiger third baseman Kelvin Goodson snagged a Brandon Chavers line drive down the third base line and was able to nail Luke Anderson at first before he could tag up.         Mock kicked off the scoring again in a four-run second inning with an RBI triple — his second in as many games — and Wally Brown capped it off with an RBI single that drove in Derek Finch.
    Rivers made it through the first two innings without giving up a hit for Portal, and Claxton was not able to get on the board until the third inning, when — trailing 8-0 — they were able to cut into the Panther lead.             Despite only two hits in the inning, CHS was able to take advantage of two Portal errors and two hit batsmen to cut the Panther lead to 8-5. With one man on base and nobody out — and five runs already across the plate, Rivers got himself out of the jam by striking out the next three batters he faced.
    “I thought it showed a lot of character coming back early on down 8-0,” said Claxton coach Rick Wood. “We got five or six to get back in it, and then we just kind of fell off a little bit.”
    Tiger relief pitcher Goodson — who moved to the mound from third base in the bottom of the third inning — allowed only one run over the next two innings, facing only seven batters on just 22 pitches. Claxton was able to add another run in the fourth on a sacrifice by DH Andrew Calloway that scored Deloach, but after grounding out and popping one up to end the inning, the comeback was cut short.
    In the bottom of the fifth inning, Portal took advantage of a seven run inning that included a Vinnie Lynn double and five unearned runs to put an early end to the game after taking a 16-6 lead.
    “Everybody looked good tonight,” said Panther coach Tendai Haggins. “Brett Rivers came out there and threw strikes. We had a couple of errors there (in the third inning) and (Rivers) got us out of the inning… He may be my number two starter. We swung the bat well and we ran the bases.”
    Because of the structure of the pre-season tournament, the teams are given some freedom to experiment with some less-experienced players. Both teams used the game as an opportunity to take some men off of the bench and give them some playing time. Each sub that went in scored a run in the game-deciding fifth inning.
    “I got those young guys in,” said Haggins. “They went in and swung the bat and hit the baseball. Hopefully it will give them confidence, and it gives me something to think about when I have those seniors in there who did not perform well on Monday night. I had some young guys step in and hit the ball today. It may put a little bit of pressure on those guys — they need to take more control of what they do in practice and in the batting cage — and go into the batting cage with a purpose.”
    The SEB Yellow Jacket tournament will continue through Saturday. Portal will not return to the diamond until the last day of the tournament when they will play a double header. They will take on the Raiders of West Laurens at 9 a.m., and will follow that with an 11:30 a.m. game against the Tattnall County Battle Creek Warriors.
    
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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