PORTAL — Just two games in, it’s already been a long season for Portal High School's baseball team.
The Panthers (0-2) dropped a 15-0, four-inning decision to Tattnall County Thursday night. The loss came on the heels of a 15-0 defeat at Southeast Bulloch in Monday’s season opener.
Portal’s lineup is thin and spotted with young and inexperienced players, all of whom will have to improve as the season goes along in order to keep pace in the competitive Region 3-A.
“We definitely have a lot to improve on,” Portal coach Dennis Moore said. “Right now, our biggest thing is showing up ready to play. We need to play like we practice. We can’t go out there worried about making mistakes.”
It was a nearly perfect evening at Franklin Coleman Field, but the Panther pitching staff was far from it.
Four Portal pitchers combined to issue seven walks, and a handful of errors in the field came back to haunt the Panthers.
Leading, 2-0, in the top of the second inning, Jose Juarez led off with a walk and advanced to third while Armando Nopal reached base on an error. Portal starter Evan Street walked Cody Boyett, which led to Christian McCranie relieving Street.
Brandon Purcell lofted a sacrifice fly to score Juarez, and Tattnall starter Chaz Kicklighter followed with a towering three-run home run to dead center to make it 6-0.
After recording the second out of the inning, McCranie walked three consecutive Warriors, then ran into more trouble. With a full count, Juarez laced a fastball over the fence in left center for a grand slam to break the game open.
“Those walks and our defense are things that need to be improved,” Moore said. “When you give up free bases by missing the strike zone and committing errors, solo home runs turn into three-run homers and grand slams. You could see how that hurt us tonight.”
The plentiful run support was much more than Kicklighter required to hold up his end on the mound.
The big right-hander brought a hard fastball and power curve at the Panther bats, with few connecting. Kicklighter struck out five and surrendered one hit in two innings before turning the ball over to Wesley Durrence, who allowed just one more hit and struck out three.
Portal’s only offensive threat came in the third inning. Hunter Oglesby reached on an error and Parker Parrish lined a double into the left field corner, but Oglesby — who tore his ACL during football season — still isn’t at his fastest and couldn’t score from first.
“We faced some good pitchers tonight,” Moore said. “We just need to stay confident at the plate. We tell our players to expect to hit every pitch that comes their way.”
Tattnall tacked on insurance runs in the fourth inning on RBI singles by Dalton Denton and John Kennedy.
Monday, Portal hosts SEB.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.