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Panthers explode late for big region win
Lynn's homer ignites offense
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    PORTAL — Vinnie Lynn’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning sparked the bats of the Portal offense as the Panthers (9-9, 6-2 Region 3-A) came back down 6-1 and knocked off region foe Savannah Country Day (6-7, 2-5 Region 3-A) 14-7 Friday night in Portal.
    “That was a big home run for (Lynn),” said PHS coach Tendai Haggins. “It boosted his confidence. Everybody got up, and it was like a domino effect and everybody started hitting right behind that. Before we knew it we were up 7-6. I just needed one person to get it started. I was glad it was Vinnie Lynn.”
    The Panthers got into an early hole after a big fourth inning where Country Day added four more to their one-run lead. With runners on second and third Hornet left fielder Ben Watson hit an RBI single into right and drove in William King. After back-to-back RBI infield singles, SCDS pitcher Bobby Shelley smacked a base hit down the third base line that drove in one more. That run capped off the scoring for the inning and gave the Hornets a 6-1 lead. The Panthers did not let up.
    “I told them that we weren’t playing Portal baseball, we weren’t aggressive.” said Haggins. “(SCDS) got ahead early and we finally started to make their pitcher work. We hit a few pitches where they were pitched — hit them hard and got a few extra bases — and put a little pressure on them. Their guy started walking a few batters, and next thing we know we are back in the ballgame.”
    After Lynn’s home run cut the Hornet lead to 6-3, the Portal offense really started to click. A walk, a stolen base and a wild pitch put Mickey Williams on third. Derek Finch then punched a bloop single into shallow left to cut the SCDS lead to 2. A Tagg Lanier walk allowed PHS pitcher Brandon Mock to drive in Finch with an RBI single to left.
    With Country Day clinging to a 6-5 lead, it was time for a new Hornet pitcher. William King came into the game in relief, and his botched pickoff attempt, coupled with some heads-up running by Lanier, put runners on the corners. Lanier scored to tie the game on a King wild pitch. Daniel Dampier’s RBI single gave the Panthers a 7-6 lead.
    Portal never looked back, and Brandon Mock was able to record a complete game along with his two runs scored. He struck out four and walked one as he went the distance. Each Panther had at least one hit in the game, and only one failed to reach base in the seven-run sixth inning that gave Portal its 14-7 lead.
    The Panthers and their 6-2 record are right behind Bryan County for second place in the Region 3-A standings and are vying for a high seed in the upcoming region tournament.
    “We can take this win and try to ride out the rest of the region,” Haggins said. “Try to win out here and become the No. 2 seed.”
    Portal will continue battling through the region when they take on Claxton on its home field Tuesday at 5 p.m.  

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.