PORTAL – It was a pitcher’s duel for four innings, but a nine-run explosion in the fifth inning powered Savannah Christian past Portal by a final count of 14-2 Thursday evening at Coleman Field.
Lawson German starred for the Red Raiders, striking out five Panthers and allowing four hits while surrendering just a pair of unearned runs in 4 2/3 innings of work.
For a while, it looked like runs would be nearly impossible to come by.
Portal starter Garrett Hodges breezed through the first three innings, matching German pitch for pitch.
“Garrett looked very sharp early on,” said Portal coach Tendai Hagins. “He had us right where we wanted to be through four innings. I just wish that we could have gotten him a lead to work with.”
Savannah Christian finally broke through in the top of the fourth.
Harrison Curry (1-for-2, RBI) led off with a walk and German was hit by a Hodges offering. Garrett Wynn advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, and an RBI groundout by Andrew Moore finally got the Raiders on the scoreboard.
Will Austin (3-for-5, 4 RBI) then knocked in German with a single before Hodges battled back to escape the inning with the Panthers trailing only 2-0.
Portal would not be so lucky in the fifth inning as the floodgates broke open.
Another leadoff walk was followed by a Cooper Lemonds (2-for-3, 2 runs scored) single, and a perfectly placed bunt from Curry loaded the bases with no outs.
A Hodges strikeout of Wynn was sandwiched between RBI walks issued to German and Moore – the latter of the two free passes chasing Hodges from the game with the bases still loaded and Savannah Christian leading 4-0.
Nick McCranie came in to relieve, but Austin sent his first pitch to the wall in right center for a two run double.
Two more walks forced another run in before Austin again took the spotlight with a straight steal of home.
An RBI single off the bat of Tyler Oglesby and a sacrifice fly from Curry would conclude the big inning with the Raiders on top 11-0.
“Garrett kept us in it for awhile,” said Hagins. “Eventually, (Savannah Christian) get a couple of bloop hits to get some runners on and then started hitting the ball pretty good. Garrett got a little tired and we just had some problems getting out of the inning.”
Portal finally got its bats going in the bottom of the fifth as Casey Ware singled and advanced to second on a throwing error.
Bart Dutton doubled home Ware, and a two-out single from Jordan Dampier brought Dutton in to score and staved off the mercy rule.
Savannah Christian bounced right back, scoring three more in the sixth to widen the lead.
Portal couldn’t manage anymore runs in the bottom half, and the 10-run rule went into effect.
Things may have turned out much differently for the Panthers had they been able to produce early in the game.
Portal loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but German induced a pop up and a weak grounder to get out of the jam and keep Portal off the scoreboard.
The Panthers also left two runners on base in both the second and fourth innings before the Raiders took control.
“We had our chances early,” said Hagins. “We had the bases loaded in the first inning and couldn’t get any runs. Savannah Christian is one of the top teams every year, so I think that our guys saw that they could compete when we pitch well and play good defense. We just need to start hitting the ball and we’ll get some more wins.”
The Panthers have the weekend off, and will return to action Monday as they travel to Waynesboro to take on Burke County.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.