One big inning was the difference maker in the Portal Panthers’ third straight loss Tuesday night.
Portal (5-3, 0-3 Region 3-A) gave up six runs in the top of the third inning, losing to the Montgomery County, 9-1.
The Panthers’ bats were quiet for most of the game after Portal couldn’t capitalize on a scoring opportunity in the first inning. Eagles starting pitcher Jonathan Rodgers pitched a complete game, striking out 13 batters.
“I thought the pitcher we faced was probably the best pitcher we’ve seen all year. We had one bad inning and just didn’t make the plays in the field. The other team put up a five or six spot against a really good pitcher,” said Dennis Moore after his team’s tough loss. “A lot of times that’s the ball game, and that was the case tonight.”
Montgomery County (1-6, 1-1 Region) may have surprised the Panthers in a lopsided win, especially considering the Eagles hadn’t won a game all season before Tuesday.
Moore said his team has to be more competitive in the batter’s box and try to string together some runs.
In the Panthers’ three-game losing streak, Portal has been outscored by opposing teams 20-2.
“We’ve got to compete better in the box and be more determined. We just have to make the pitcher work more,” Moore said. “But you have to keep it in perspective. It’s just one game. The other team outplayed us. They deserved to win. They played a good game and we didn’t.”
Panthers starting pitcher Jake Brown pitched five innings, recording nine strikeouts. Moore said Brown pitched a solid game despite a rocky third inning.
Jad Street hit an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring Jamal Simpkins. Street leads the team with six RBIs.
In the first two innings it appeared as though Brown and Rodgers were headed into an intense pitcher’s duel.
In the top of the third the Eagles loaded the bases. An error in centerfield allowed Montgomery County to score their first run of the game. Kris Daniels followed with an RBI single and Kody Bargeron’s two-RBI double put the Eagles up 4-0.
Bargeron finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored.
In the top of the seventh inning with two runners on, Bargeron would strike again with an RBI single.
After starting the season 5-0, Portal will have a chance to get back in the win column when they take on Jenkins County (2-8, 0-2 Region) on the road Friday. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.
“You have two choices. You can either have your head up or your head down. We’ll see how we respond,” Moore said. “We just have to play better. We have to play seven good innings, not five. We’ve had a tough time scoring runs lately so we can’t have bad defensive innings. We have to be sharp the whole time.”