What started as a pitching dual turned into a hit parade for the Spring Hill Panthers in their convincing 11-1 win over the Van Vandals on Thursday evening at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Mike Carter Field.
The Panthers collected 16 base hits and closed things with a walk-off infield single from Trent Gregson that enabled Marshall Lipsey to trot home from third.
Game 2 in this best-of-three Class 4A regional baseball quarterfinal 5 p.m. Friday at Mike Carter Field. If a third game is needed it will be played 30 minutes following the conclusion of Game 2.
Caden Noah had command early and scattered five hits with seven strikeouts to run his pitching record to 7-3. Noah helped himself at the plate as well when he cranked a 2-run homer to right in the fourth. It was Noah’s fourth round-tripper of the season.
Spring Hill (22-10-1) started a two-out rally in the fourth when Jonas Roberts got hit by a Manny Moore offering. Courtesy runner Craig Hunnicutt came home in front of Noah’s bomb that cleared the high fence in right with ease.
Gregson raced around when Logan Avant turned on a fastball and drove it to right. Avant finished 3 for 3 with an RBI and one run scored.
Dylan Hutchison slapped a single to left and came in from second on a Ryan Lepire run-scoring base knock to right for a 6-0 advantage. Lepire finished the evening with three singles and one run scored.
The Panthers had grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third after Ethan Tidwell reached on an infield single and Roberts dropped a hit into right center. Tidwell crossed when Hutchison was safe on a fielder’s choice, while Lepire chased in Hunnicutt, who ran for Roberts, for a 2-0 lead.
Noah, meanwhile, was dealing and retired 11 in a row at one point. He set the Vandals down on strikes in the third after retiring them on just six pitches in the second.
Lipsey beat out a bunt to open the fifth, stole second and eventually came around to score when Roberts laced his second single of the night to center.
Avant got the sixth frame going with a nice rap to right. Lepire and Colin Martin followed in kind with singles to left and center, respectively. A Vandal error in left allowed Avant to find his way around and Tidwell pushed across Lepire when he drew a bases loaded walk. Noah drove one deep enough to straight away center that Martin tagged to make it 10-1 as the game neared conclusion.