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Portal outlasts Liberty Co. in 12-inning thriller

    PORTAL — After 12 innings, 30 hits, 14 errors, and three huge comebacks, Portal’s Andy Harlow only had to stand patiently by as a walk ended a wild affair.

Harlow trotted down to first after watching four balss sail by, bringing home the game-winning run in a dramatic 17-16 victory Wednesday evening.
    Portal (8-9) coughed up a 10-8 lead in the top of the seventh inning against Liberty County Wednesday evening to send the game into extra innings.
    Liberty scored three runs in the ninth inning and two more in the 11th. Another run in the top of the 12th gave Liberty County its third lead of the contest, but Curtis Michalowicz gave up a single and walked four straight to force in the tying and winning runs.
    “I’ve been coaching for 14 years,” Portal coach Dennis Moore said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a game that was quite as crazy as this one. I think that I stopped getting gray hair and just started losing hair.”
    Four innings before the walk-off win, the Panthers were down to their last strike.
    Trailing 13-11 in the bottom of the ninth, Evan Street lined a two-run double to the wall in right field to square things up. Streets heroics followed a fielding error by Liberty that could have ended the game, but instead allowed Christian McCranie to score.
    Portal dug deep again in the 11th inning as Parker Parrish and Ty Cowart each recorded RBI singles to even things up once again.
    Street started the game for Portal and breezed through the first inning before Liberty County racked up three hits, waited out four walks, and took advantage of an error to plate six runs in the frame.
    Liberty made it a 7-0 lead in the top of the third inning, but Portal responded with four runs in its half of the third and pounded out six hits in a six-run fourth inning to take a 10-7 lead.
    Desperately trying to save arms for upcoming region games, Moore called upon three arms that hadn't been used all season.
    Cowart, Landon Stephens, and Austin Brack all made their first pitching appearances of 2014. The trio went a combined 9 2/3 innings, and while they surrendured five earned runs, Brack was able to notch his first career win as the Panthers rallied in the 12th.
    "It's just a total team effort," Moore said. "I don't know what else to say. In a game like this, everyone had to keep their heads in the game. Everyone gave a great effort and we got all of the big plays when we needed them."
    Chase Kirkland couldn't hold the Panthers' 10-8 lead in the seventh innings as he surrendered two hits and a hit batter to load the bases. Kirkland then issued a walk and a fielders choice to plate two Liberty runs and send the game into extra innings.
    A Portal error in the ninth inning put a runner on before Jacari Roberts blasted a home run to left field off of Stephens.
    Another Panther error and an Aric Albertson single plated a pair of Liberty runs in the 11th inning to set the stage for the Panthers' third comeback of the night.
    With Wednesday's thriller now behind them, the Panthers must now jump back into Region 3-A play.
    Portal will head to Mt. Vernon to take on Montgomery County Friday.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.