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Panthers capture first Class A tourney championship

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By Sharon Graves

The News-Democrat

The Carroll County Panther baseball team made history Saturday night when they claimed the school’s first-ever Class A tournament victory.

The Panthers defeated Trimble County 6-1 and Williamstown 11-4 before mowing down Henry County 12-0 in the finals.

The tournament began on Thursday at the TCHS Raiders' home field in Bedford, when Panther Jesse Proctor threw a complete game.

Going into the sixth inning, Proctor had only thrown 58 pitches and completed the seventh inning as he caught the last two hitters looking at strikes.

Head Coach Jay Jones said he is extremely proud of his hurler. “I can’t say enough about Jesse’s game. We threw him first and he had really good stuff today,” Jones said. “He had good zip on his fastball, but I think it’s because he used his change-up and his curve ball.”

The game plan had been to get a run every inning, but the Panthers hadn’t kept exactly to the plan, Jones said. D.C. Craig hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, and Jones said a solo homer often is a rally killer. The Panthers also had two unearned runs in the same inning, which found them almost back on the original game plan.

Excessive rain and poor drainage led tournament officials to move the semifinal and final games from Gallatin County High School's soggy field to the Panthers' home field.

The Panthers faced the Demons of Williamstown in the semifinal game, trading the lead back and forth for much of the game. The Panthers made serious errors, committing seven against the Demons – two more than they had scored on the season at that point, Jones said.

Following a comedy of errors in the third inning, the Panthers loaded the bases in the fourth with Cody McIntyre, Matt Allen and Jesse Proctor. Sophomore Zach Wise then came to the plate and smacked a long fly over the right field fence for his first-ever grand slam.

The Panther dugout cleared as teammates came on the field and high-fived Wise as he crossed home plate.

The inning ended with the Panthers ahead 6-4; they held off the Demons for the remainder of the game, scoring five more runs by the end of the game.

The Panthers had a half-hour break as they changed uniforms and prepared the field for the final game with the Henry County Wildcats.  

The Panthers dominated the entire game with Chris Hendrick throwing a one-hitter. By the end of the second inning, the Panthers were cruising at 8-0.

The lone Henry County hit came in the third inning when Austyn Sailings got aboard with a single. Patrick Mahoney worked Hendrick for a full count and then struck out, sending Sailings to second. Tommy Wilson was hit by the pitcher, putting him on first. Both Wildcats were stranded, though, when Dylan Hall flew out.

The game ended in the fifth inning on the 10-run rule following a stellar double play from Proctor to Tyler Gross with the Panthers ahead 12-0.

Jones said the team worked hard week leaduing up to the tournament, with twice-a-day practices in anticipation of maybe playing two games on Saturday.

“We’ve been hard at it trying to change the culture and the way we do business in baseball, and it showed today,” Jones said. “We were pretty sharp. We got a little excited being up 12 runs and made some little mistakes we don’t usually make, but we executed a lot of things that go unnoticed in the stands.”

Jones praised Proctor on a bunt he laid down against Williamstown and a double play he made to end the Henry County game. He said Proctor's is the perfect example of the attitude they want. Jones said because Proctor had thrown seven innings against Trimble County on Thursday, he wasn't sure if Proctor would play Saturday because his arm was sore. But, but they needed him on the field. To save his arm, Jones kept Proctor out of infield practice before the game.

“For him to gut it out and make that play, throwing across his body is a perfect example what we want our players to do,” Jones said.

The Panthers will meet the winner of the 5th Region Class A tournament in a few weeks in Campbellsville.