Mars Hill Bible scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a wild pitch allowing catcher Collin Huntley to score from third and the Panthers grabbed a 4-3 victory over Brantley to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 AHSAA Class 1A State Baseball Championship Series Monday night.
The Panthers and Bulldogs opened the 64th AHSAA State Baseball Championships at Paterson Field. Game 2 in the series moves to Riverwalk Stadium Tuesday at 10 a.m. with game three, if needed, to follow immediately.
Huntley led off the bottom of the seventh inning with the game tied at 3-3 and socked triple off starter and losing pitcher Parker Odom. The Bulldogs intentionally walked Colt Smith and Brooks Thompson to load the bases before Odom got Peyton Higgins to line out to center. With Josh Bowerman at the plate, Odom’s next pitch was wide allowing Huntley to score from third with the winning run.
Mars Hill took a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning when Thompson doubled in a run and scored on Higgins’ single. Brantley pecked away with a run in the top of the second and third off Mars Hill starter Bowerman to knot the score at 2-2. Pinch runner Morell Edwards scored from third on Carson Jones’ infield out for the first run. The next run came on a bases-loaded walk by Bowerman to Samuel Tompkins plated Tucker Kilcrease, who opened the inning with a walk.
The Panthers of Coach Jay Mitchell took the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Smith opened with a triple and scored Thompson singled him in. Brantley, coached by Austin Brook, struck quickly in the top of the sixth when Jake Kilcrease ripped a two-out single, stole second and scored on Greyson Layton’s single.
Smith, the fourth Mars Hill pitcher inserted by Mitchell, pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to get the win in relief. He allowed one hit and struck out one – but more importantly pitched the Panthers out of the jam in the top of the sixth. Starter Bowerman hurled 5 2/3 innings allowing six hits and striking out two.
Brantley’s Odom pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowed seven hits, two earned runs and struck out seven in the loss.
Mars Hill’s Thompson had two hits and two RBIs to pace the Panthers’ seven hits. Second baseman Kyler Murks also had two hits including a double. Lead-off hitter Jake Kilcrease had three hits and Layton had two to pace the Bulldogs’ eight-hit attack.