The Portal Panthers split a doubleheader Friday at home against McIntosh County Academy. The Buccaneers took the first game 14-3, but the Panthers were able to rally back for a walk-off 7-6 victory in the nightcap.
Trailing 6-4, the Panthers scratched back for a run in the sixth which set the stage for the seventh inning heroics. Bryce Clifton led off the inning beating out a routine ground ball to short for an infield hit. Chase Smith then came through with an RBI single to right to tie the game at 6-6. Tucker Chester followed that up with a single up the middle. Cole Shuman hustled all the way home from second and slid in safely just ahead of the tag.
“I am so proud of how we came back from that first game and also from being down in the second game,” said portal coach Travis Motes. “We got behind, but we didn’t lose our composure. We just kept fighting and I am proud of the boys for pushing through.”
The comeback wouldn’t have been possible if not for an improbable run in the sixth. With two outs Lane Miller struck out, but the ball got away from the catcher and Miller beat the throw to first. Miller then stole second, and then stole third and came in to score as the throw to third from the catcher ended up in left field.
Trailing 1-0 in the second, the Panthers actually took a 4-1 lead as Miller and Clifton both came through with RBI singles. Portal added another run on a fielder’s choice and capped things off scoring on a double steal.
The Bucs scratched back for four unearned runs in the top of the third on three Portal errors, a walk and a wild pitch. The only hit of the inning came on a two-run single by Will Philmore. MCA added another run in the top of the sixth to extend their lead to 6-4.
Austin Smith got the start and allowed only one earned run over three innings with four strikeouts. Cole Shuman earned the win in relief as he allowed one earned run in four innings of work with four strikeouts.
MCA took the opener 14-3 as the Panthers struggled at the plate and in the field. Portal had seven errors and issued five walks. The Bucs also had 13 hits in the game while Portal could only scrape through for six hits.
"In the first game it seemed we were just checked out mentally,” said Motes. “We haven’t played like that all season. Coming back to win that second one was huge especially considering how we played in the first game.”
Portal is now 5-8 overall and 4-2 in region play. Up next Portal hosts Jenkins County Tuesday at 5:30.