Whether it’s with manufacturing runs, pitching or timely hitting, the Portal Panthers have found ways to win this season.
Tuesday night against Bryan County, the Panthers had a combination of all three in a 5-3 win to improve to a perfect 4-0 on the year.
The Redskins jumped on the Panthers early, scoring three runs in the first inning. However, Portal would bounce back with big hits from Jade Street and a solid pitching performance from Cole Busby. After the first inning, the Panthers scored five unanswered runs on the way to their fourth win of the season.
Hector Diaz went 2-for-4 from the plate with a run scored. Tyler Hagans finished the game 2-for-2 with an RBI. Landon Stephens also had an RBI in the win.
“It feels good, no doubt about it. Bryan County is a good ball club and they got off to a hot start in the first inning,” said Portal baseball coach Dennis Moore. “It’s really the first time we’ve been behind this year and it was very interesting to see how we’d respond. I’m just very proud of the boys.”
Cole Busby responded in typical fashion after a rough first inning. After giving up three runs in the first, Busby worked through the lineup by adjusting his release point on his pitches.
The Panthers’ starting pitcher pitched a complete game, striking out 16 batters through seven innings with five walks and two earned runs.
“I was just thinking of controlling the damage and to get back to where I needed to be. I know I could play way better than what I did in that first innings,” said Busby after the game. “The first inning, my release point wasn’t there like it usually is. That was really it.”
After the game, Busby wanted to make sure to thank Street for coming through with arguably the biggest hit of the ball game for the Panthers.
“I just want to thank that man right there,” Busby said laughing, pointing at Street. “Very clutch hit.”
Street’s clutch hit came in the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded. Down 3-2 against the Redskins, Jake Brown started the rally with a 1-out single. Busby would be hit by a pitch and Jamal Simpkins reached base on a walk, setting the stage for Street.
Street elevated a pitch into right field for a three-RBI triple to put the Panthers up for good.
“I was just thinking about what coach Moore said and get my pitch and swing at it. It went in the right spot at the right time,” said Street, who also scored a run in the bottom of the fourth on a pass ball. “(Bryan County) mixed it up pretty good, but I tried to jump on the first pitch, because more than likely, they’re trying to get ahead.
“Our confidence is very high, but we can’t get the big head and think we can beat anybody. We have to keep our head on straight.”
In a heated game, the finish was anticlimactic for the Redskins’ fans. In the top of the seventh inning, Bryan County managed to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with runners on first and second.
Coach Moore decided to stick with Busby to finish out the game. The move seemed to pay off for the Panthers as Busby caught a runner out of position at second with a pick-off move. The runner would eventually be tagged out at second base after a brief run-down between third and second base.
“That was a great way to end it,” Busby said, once again smiling. “I looked at (the runner) and he was hesitating. In a big situation, I knew he was going to try and go.”
The Panthers will try to take their winning ways to Burke County Wednesday on the road. Coach Moore said he hopes his team can continue their momentum.
“We’ve had some good timely hitting this year. Guys have been clutch so far, no doubt about it. Hopefully that will continue,” Moore said.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.