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Panthers hold strong on home turf

PINETOWN — The defensive struggle between Northside and Columbia didn’t last but an inning and a half. The home standing Panthers broke loose for five runs in the bottom of the second, and used three pitchers to stymie the Wildcat bats in an 11-1 win in Saturday’s second game.

Starting pitcher Zach Woolard worked his way out of a jam to stand two Columbia runners in scoring position in the top of the first. His team’s offense went three up, three down in the bottom half, but he kept strong in top of the second by striking out three of the four batters he faced.

Woolard struck out five before being pulled in the third.

“We have two games on Monday, so anyone over 45 (pitches), I can’t use them,” coach Keith Boyd said. “My plan was to get them from 40 to 45 pitches. I had plenty of arms to throw today and wanted to keep everyone eligible to throw on Monday.”

The Panthers’ offense scored in each inning after the first. That included a five-run second that gave them an early stranglehold on the game. Tanner Alligood drew a lead-off walk and stole second to position himself to score on Woolard’s dink into shallow left field.

“I feel like we’re getting in a little bit of a groove. That’s the thing about a tournament: instead of a 10-day layoff, you want to try to play as many as you can to keep them in the groove at the plate,” Boyd said.

The runs kept coming from there. Landon Ormond, Braedon Burbage, and Dawson Boyd all reached on consecutive errors. The ball Boyd put into play opened the door for two more Northside runs to come in. Reg Bishop plated the final run with an RBI groundout.

Cameron Reynolds kicked off the third with a single to center. He put the Wildcats on the board when a base hit fell just inside the right-field line.

Northside added two more in the bottom of the frame when its first five batters reached safely. Bishop added his second RBI on a sacrifice fly that pushed his side’s advantage to 7-1.

Alligood, who took the mound for Woolard in the third, fanned two as he retired Columbia in order in the fourth. He helped the Panthers plate another two runs. He reached on an error. Memphis Slade-Credle ran for him and came around on Woolard’s ground-rule double. Woolard touched home after Ormond belted a hard grounder to third base.

The Panthers got the mercy rule when Columbia couldn’t cleanly play a ball off of Parker Boyd’s bat. That allowed Matthew Marslender and Bishop to score, pushing the lead to 11-1 in the fifth.

Bishop came out of the bullpen in the top of the inning and struck out what ended up being Columbia’s last batter.