PORTAL – An eight-run fifth inning finally put the brakes on a five game losing skid as the Portal Panthers powered their way to a 14-6 victory over Montgomery County Tuesday evening.
Trailing 6-4 in the fifth, the Panthers (6-7, 2-6 Region 3-A) ripped off seven hits and sent 12 batters to the plate as they took the lead for good.
“We kept battling,” Portal coach Dennis Moore said. “We didn’t play seven full good innings like we wanted to, but we stayed in the game. We got some key hits and fought our way back.”
Jake Brown started the rally with a double before Evan Street and Bradley Spence recorded back-to-back singles off of Montgomery starter Jacob Manning. Andrew Harlow tied the game with an RBI groundout and Manning loaded the bases with consecutive walks before being relieved by Jonathan Rogers.
Chase Kirkland (2-for-4, 4 RBI) greeted Rogers with a two-run single on the first pitch he saw to put Portal ahead. Christian McCranie (4 RBI), Brown, and Street all followed with RBI singles to blow the game wide open.
“We swung the bats well,” Moore said. “We know that we have to do most of our damage with singles and maybe finding the gap every once in a while. Everyone chipped in tonight.”
The Panthers took the lead with small ball, but Kirkland put an exclamation point on the victory with power as he rifled a shot that rode a heavy wind over the fence in left center for a two-run shot in the sixth inning to cap off the scoring.
Kirkland was also credited with the win on the mound after relieving Street in the top of the fifth. Kirkland struck out a pair and retired six of the seven batters he faced.
Early on, it seemed like the Panthers wouldn’t have to provide any late-inning drama.
The Eagles (0-12, 0-6) plated the game’s first run in the second inning when Cody Spinn scored on a wild pitch, but the Panthers answered in the bottom half of the inning as McCranie smoked a bases loaded triple into the right field corner and scored on an error to make it a 4-1 Portal lead.
Montgomery stormed ahead in the fourth as Spinn drew a leadoff walk and scored on a triple by Jared Quarterman, who then came in to score on Skyler Baughman’s groundout.
Two Portal errors gave the Eagles additional base runners and a pair of soft flares found room to drop as the Panther outfielders played deep due to the wind. Ryan Truett found a hole up the middle for an RBI single to make it 6-4 before Street was able to stop the bleeding.
“Overall, I thought our guys pitched well,” Moore said. “We had that one rough inning, but we made some good pitches and got big outs when we needed them.”
After Portal took the lead in the late inning, Howell slammed the door in the seventh.
The junior right-hander worked a perfect frame, needing just nine pitches to close out the win for the Panthers.
Portal will try to keep up its winning ways Thursday as it hosts Savannah Christian in another region matchup.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.