It’s tough for the outside world to see progress being made on a team that is 3-8, but Portal head coach Travis Motes is seeing improvements being made. Tuesday afternoon the Panthers hung in until their last out before finally falling to Jenkins County 2-1.
The Panthers have continued to battle this year but haven’t been able to close games out with three of their last four losses coming by two runs or less.
“The difference in the game is we just didn’t put the bat on the ball,” said Motes. “We were in it till the end and I am extremely proud of our guys this year for battling. Most of our games have come down to the last inning, last year we were lucky to make it four or five innings before the game was called. We are taking steps in the right direction now the next step is to win some of these close ballgames.”
An unearned run in the first inning proved costly as the two teams played to a 1-1 tie from there on. The Eagles Damion Carter led off the first with a single. With runners on the corners Jackson Lanier took off for second, the throw down went into center allowing Carter to score for a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles added a second run in the second inning. Baker Jenkins came through with an RBI single to left for a 2-0 Jenkins County lead. The Panthers came back to cut the lead to one in the fourth. Cole Shuman singled to center, moved to third on an infield hit by Lane Miller and then scored on a fielder's choice grounder by Brady Mallard.
The loss overshadowed quite a pitching performance from the Panther duo of Shuman and Mallard. Shuman allowed only three hits and one earned run in four innings with four strikeouts. Mallard then threw three innings of no-hit ball with three strikeouts. On the other side Jenkins County pitcher G Underwood was equally as sharp allowing only two hits and one run over seven innings with 11 strikeouts.
“They are a great tag team out there,” said Motes. “Cole and Brady really complement each other. Cole has a little more velocity and Brady spins it well and has a little different arm delivery. They combined to only give up three hits and one earned run. If they can keep us in the ballgames we are going to break through soon. That is all we can ask of them.”
The two teams play again Friday at 6:00 in Millen as the Panthers look for their first region victory.