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Yellow Jackets slip by Panthers
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    BROOKLET — The Portal Panthers traveled to Southeast Bulloch Monday night to take on the Yellow Jackets in the first round of the SEB Yellow Jacket tournament. The game was full of offense from the start as the Panthers were able to pin eight runs in three innings on Yellow Jacket starter Scotty Beegle.
    The bats of SEB returned the favor, scoring nine in the same time frame on starting Panther Brandon Mock.
    Portal started the scoring early, when in the first inning — with one man on and two out — Mock launched a two-run homer over the left-field fence. The Panthers picked up five more in the second inning and one more in the third before SEB coach Stephen Hoyle pulled his starter and relieved him with Fisher Strickland.
    The Yellow Jackets had to scrap more for their offense, but trailing 8-5 in the bottom of the third, they were able to get something going. During the four-run inning, Mock walked three consecutive batters. Southeast Bulloch was able to take a 9-8 lead and added to it in the fourth on the strength of Dustin Stall’s two-run double. Portal wasn’t able to come back from the deficit.
    Both teams pulled its starters in the fourth inning, and the offense slowed down on both sides.     Strickland came on to pitch two consecutive hitless and scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth that included four strikeouts. It was not until the sixth — when Portal scored back-to-back runs on a Mock triple with Tagg Lanier on base followed by a David Finch RBI single — that Portal was able to score on Strickland. Portal sent Dustin Jones in for relief in the fourth, and Jones put up similar numbers to Strickland. The Yellow Jackets looked to have something going in the top of the fourth, and managed two runs. With two on and one out, and two already across the plate, Jones looked to be in a jam. He got out of it when he forced a come-backer to the mound and nailed the runner at first. Panther first baseman Vinnie Lynn then fired the ball to catcher Brett Rivers, and Portal turned the double play at the plate to get Jones out of the inning. Jones didn’t allow another run and set SEB down 1-2-3 in the next two innings.
    The two-run fourth was all Southeast Bulloch needed, however, as Strickland struck out five of the final six Panther batters and SEB got the win by a final score of 11-10.
    “(Strickland) did a great job,” said Hoyle. “He came in and shut the door down — threw a lot of good pitches.”
    Hoyle was more than happy with his team’s performance.
    “We battled back at times,” he said. “For us to come back, and then hold off a rally by a good team — it shows a lot of character and a lot of heart.”
    As for Portal, coach Tendai Haggins is optimistic about the 2007 season.
    “Hopefully it was just first game jitters and we get it all ironed out,” said Haggins. “We did put up 10 runs and we hit the ball pretty well. We just took too many good pitches and went after too many bad ones.”
    Portal returns to the diamond on Wednesday to take on Claxton in the second game of the SEB tournament.
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.