Defensive lapses cost Panthers in third round

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2017

GOLDSBORO — Play loosely, in the moment, and enjoy the memories you’re making.

That was Northside coach Keith Boyd’s message to the Panthers as they prepared to take the field at Rosewood for their third-round contest. They looked anything but loose in an error-ridden second inning that resulted in an 11-1, six-inning loss.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know,” Boyd said, trying to explain what went wrong. “… I don’t believe, all year long, we’ve had an inning where we’ve had five errors. Not just five errors, but routine (plays). That’s been the staple of our game all year long. To give up seven is too much to overcome against a good team.”

The Panthers got two on with no outs in the top of the first and eventually loaded the bases, but left all three stranded. They left another on in the second after James Barrow was gunned down trying to steal third base.

The offense, despite not capitalizing on early chances, was chugging along. Northside’s defense enjoyed a hot start, too, as starting pitcher Zack Griffin set the opposition down in order.

The hosting Eagles got to work in the second inning. They put the bat on the ball, but Northside failed to make routine plays. Ground balls trickled past infielders. Throws went awry. The Panthers let the runs come in in droves, and missed chance after chance to get out of the inning.

Momentum shifted completely to the home dugout. The Panthers got one back in the top of the third. Tanner Alligood reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second when Dawson Boyd belted a two-out single through the left side. Alligood came around on Grant Talbot’s base knock to right-centerfield.

It was the only run Northside scored, but not for a lack of effort. The team churned out one of its best performances at the plate of its 19-win season. It finished the game with 10 hits and got the leadoff batter on base in all but two frames.

“If you would have told me what would have got us, and we’d be going home losing, I would have said we’d have been inadequate at the plate,” Boyd said. “We outhit them. Our pitching was good. We just booted it around that one inning, and it took the wind out of our sails. We kept fighting, tried to stay in it, but that inning was hard to overcome.”

None of those hits went for extra bases, though, and the early hole took away Northside’s small-ball options.

“We just couldn’t get that second or third hit we needed in an inning,” Boyd said. “… When you’re down that many, it takes your small ball away. You don’t have outs to give away.”

Rosewood advances to play Voyager Academy in the fourth round. While Northside’s season is over, only two other Panther squads have made it as far as this one. The nine juniors on this team should provide a foundation for success next season, too.