Panthers break district drought with deluge of runs
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

When the Russellville Panthers decided to break out of their district tournament drought, they let loose the flood gates.

On Monday, they beat two-time defending champion Franklin-Simpson 5-3 for the program's first postseason win in six seasons. On Tuesday, they poured it on, washing away the Logan County Cougars 17-6 for the Panthers' first district championship in 19 years.

In between, the Cougars reached the finals for the 10th time in the last 11 years by edging Todd Central 8-6.

Besides the RHS championship, this tournament could well be remembered for the woes that beset infielders. From eighth graders to sophomores to seniors, fielding became a nightmare for lots of guys trying to handle ground balls and then do the right thing with the ball.

A look at each of the three games follows:

Russellville 5, Franklin-Simpson 3

It was a day that Darren Murphy may never forget. It was a day Preston Johnson will spend a long time trying to forget.

With the bases loaded with Wildcats, Murphy had a 1-0 count on Franklin-Simpson cleanup hitter Chase Roberts in the top of the seventh inning. Johnson was at second base, representing the potential tying run. Johnson and Tyler Goodman, who was on third, had accounted for half of the mere four hits Murphy had allowed in the game. Over at first, Dylan Richardson, who was the beneficiary of being hit by a Murphy pitch, was hoping to score the go-ahead run if Roberts could get hold of a Murphy fastball.

Instead, on a planned play, Murphy wheeled and found Johnson too far off the bag. Panther shortstop Andra Edmonds had sneaked in behind Johnson. Murphy's fastball sped to second instead of home, and Johnson dived bag toward the bag, only to find Edmonds and the ball waiting for him. Umpire Timmy Summers called him out, and just like that the game was over. Murphy, Edmonds and Johnson had taken the bat out of Roberts' hands, leaving F-S coach Craig Delk staring out into space from the third base coaching box.

Johnson, a senior second baseman and four-year starter, also was part of the first Panther run. He booted a ground ball off the bat of number nine hitter Brian Harris. Edmonds followed with a singled, Thomas Shifflett sacrifice-bunted them over and Harris scored on D.J. Quarles' sacrifice fly to centerfield..

On the other hand, an error by Russellville's second baseman, eighth grader Barrett Croslin, gave the Wildcats a first-inning 2-0 lead. Murphy walked the game's first batter, Landon Satterly, on four pitches, but Johnson forced him at second. Dylan Richardson doubled, putting runners at second and third. Then Roberts hit the grounder to Croslin. Not only did Johnson score, but the hustling Richardson slid home under catcher Seth Washington's tag for the second run.

After that Murphy was in charge. Only one of the next 15 Wildcats reached base, and that was on a walk before Murphy retired 12 batters in a row.

The Panthers had scored four more runs by then. In the fourth, Dudley Bouldin doubled, Washington singled, and Caleb Wills' bunt turned into an infield hit. Coach Craig Delk then replaced starting pitcher Tyler Madison with Joey Symon, who immediately walked Harris. Edmonds followed with a sacrifice fly and Shifflett singled for an RBI.

Bouldin got his second hit to lead off the fifth, but Washington hit into a double play. Wills walked, but D.J. Watkins couldn't bring him home. Harris, who was on base all three times at bat, doubled off a third pitcher, Zack Thomas, but he was stranded.

Everything was going smoothly until the sixth inning. Johnson singled and scored on a pitch hit by the Wildcats' most experienced player, junior Hayden Williams, who couldn't play defense or run the bases because of an injury. That made it 5-3.

Then in the seventh, Taylor Goodman singled. Murphy got two strikeouts before Johnson singled for his second hit and reached for the third time. Murphy then hit Richardson with a pitch to load the bases.

Coach Lou Kendall came out to talk with Murphy, who was winning his 10th game of the season. Instead of "settling him down," though, the conversation was obviously about the pickoff play coming up. Two of the four hits Murphy allowed were in the inning. Murphy threw one pitch to Roberts, but before the second one, he whirled around and fired a strike to shortstop Edmonds, who tagged Johnson to end the game and the drought.

Bouldin had two hits, including a double, with Washington, Wills, Watkins and Harris each getting one.

Logan County 8, Todd Central 6

The infield curse struck again in this game. The Cougars were comfortably ahead 8-4 with two outs in the final inning. But then senior second baseman Matt Cook, a returning starter who had started a double play to end Todd''s sixth inning, ran into problems. The last four Rebel batters hit ground balls to second, and Cook made errors on the first three. Jason Fort, Armondo Flores and Hunter Tabb all reached base on the miscues. Kyle Power and a hustling Fort scored on the same play when Logan first baseman John Logan Dockins wasn't aware that Fort was headed home until he saw him scoring.

The Rebels had the bases loaded with the tying and potential go-ahead runs when Cook cleanly fielded Jordan Walters' grounder and threw him out to end the game.

Freshman third baseman Ryan Basham singled and scored the Cougars' first run in the second inning. Lawton Jackson also singled, and Ryan Harper was hit by ball four to load the bases. Basham scored on Power's wild pitch.

A second run came in the third inning when winning pitcher Brett Sowell doubled for his second hit. Nathan Oberhausen and Cook walked, and courtesy runner Gaige Hales, also a freshman, scored when a pickoff play went sour.

Three runs went on the Logan total when Sowell got his third hit, Dockins singled, and Oberhausen reached on an error by another second baseman, getting no outs on a potential double play ball. Cook walked, as did Basham, and Jackson singled in a run, but pinch runner Logan Anderson, was thrown out at the plate by several feet.

What proved to be the winning runs scored in the sixth. Dustin Cartas walked, but courtesy runner Justin Harper was Sowell. Dockins reached on yet another error at second base, and Oberhausen singled in Hailes. Cook doubled in Dockins with the winning run, and Oberhausen scored on an error by relief pitcher Tabb.

Sowell, who had a solid game on the mound at the plate as college scouts watched, gave up a solo homer to the game's first batter, Ethan Edwards. In the second he walked Tabb, and Walters reached on Basham's error at third. Luke Perdue had a sacrfice fly, Alan Keeling sacrificed Walters over where Edwards singled him in. Walters doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on another Basham error.

Sowell gave up only one earned run on seven hits and two walks. He struck out four. On offense, he had three hits and his courtesy runner scored three runs. Dockins and Jackson each had two hits. Cook doubled and walked twice. The Cougars scored eight runs without the top three batters in the order getting a hit or scoring a run.

Russellville 17, Logan County 6 (finals)

After trailing 4-1 and withstanding a bases-loaded opportunity for the Cougars in the third inning, the Panthers scored four runs in the the bottom of the third and eight in the fourth on the way to the rout.

It was a team effort with Edmonds and Murphy scoring three runs each, and Bouldin, Washington and Watkins two each.

No one contributed more than eighth grader Corey Wright, who got the win in relief of Shifflett. Kendall brought in Wright in a pressure-packed situation, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third. He struck out Basham to end the threat and pitched a scoreless fourth inning. Two runs scored in the fifth but they were the result, fittingly, of an error at second.

Ryan Harper, who is his third year as a starting infielder for the Cougars, had the most painful experience of all among the infielders. Having made only six errors all season at shortstop, Harper's problems began when he tried to sidearm Watkins' hard grounder with two outs in the second inning. The ball bounced over his glove, setting up a three-run homer for Edmonds after Harris singled. Edmonds' blow over the left field fence tied the game at 4-4. Harper had three more errors before being hit in the face and felled by Shifflett's hard-hit bal in the fourth inning. His dad Jeff said they finally got home from the hospital about 3 a.m. with the diagnosis a broken nose.

What proved to be the winning run scored in the Panther third. After an out, Murphy singled and was safe on a stolen base attempt despite a strong throw by Cartas when Harper couldn't hang on to the ball. Bouldin reached on an infield error, Washington had an RBI hit, Wills walked, and Watkins singled in two runs. After two outs, Wills scored on an infield error, and Edmonds and Shifflett each got hits.

The seven-run fourth began with Murphy getting his third hit, Bouldin and Washington reaching on back-to-back errors at shortstop, Watkins reaching on the first of two errors in the inning by Oberhausen in centerfield, Wright singling, Edmonds doubling, and Shifflett hitting the ball that felled Harper. Quarles reached on an RBI fielder's choice, Murphy hit the ball deep to Oberhausen, who mishandled it, to get on for the fourth time, and Bouldin reached for the third time, this one on an RBI single.

The Cougars mounted a threat in the fifth inning. They were one hit away from extending the game to additional innings. Dockins and Oberhausen began it with singles. Wright struck out Hales and got Cook to hit into a fielder's choice. But Basham walked, and Nash reached on an error at second base, allowing Dockins to score. Jacob Hopkins, who had come into the game when Harper was injured, singled in Cook. The bases were loaded and top-hitter Cartas was at the plate. If he could clear the bases, the game would have continued. Wright kept him hitless for the tournament when Cartas' fly ball went deep but not deep enough. Shifflett hauled it in to end the game and the tournament.

Logan had scored four runs in the first inning. Harper got the first of two walks he worked. Cartas also walked, and Sowell kept his hot streak by doubling in Harper and courtesy runner Justin Harper. Dockins then got a hit to right that went past Harris for a triple. Oberhausen drove Dockins in on a single.

Jackson was the starting pitcher for Logan, relieved by Dustin Nash. Anderson played some outfield during the finals.

A five-year starter, Edmonds had three hits, including a homer and a double, drove in five runs, and was on base four times, scoring three runs. Murphy had three hits and reached on an error. Watkins added two hits and reached on an error. Bouldin had a hit and reached twice via error. Harris and Wright each had a hit, Wills walked and scored on an error, and Zach Denney scored a run. Croslin played second base throughout the championship game.

Logan managed six hits. Dockins had two of them with a triple and scored two runs. Oberhausen also had a pair of hits. Sowell doubled while Nash and Jacob Hopkins each had a hit. Harper and Cook each picked up two of the seven walks Logan worked.

The Panthers take a 20-7 record to region, which is expected to start Memorial Day at Western Kentucky University. Logan County will go to its sixth straight regional tournament with a 14-20 mark. The Cougars are 37-55 the past three years but have found a way to get to region each time.

Franklin-Simpson finished 14 15 and Todd Central 13-16.

All-District Team

The coaches picked an all-district team. Those honored were seniors Bouldin, Edmonds and Murphy along with junior Quarles of Russellville; seniors Sowell and Oberhausen of Logan County along with freshman Cartas; Johnson, Madison and Williams of Franklin-Simpson; and Fort and Power of Todd Central.

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