Panthers come close but see season end
By Jim Turner

Posted on May 26, 2014 10:45 PM

So close! So improved! And, yet, so over.

When Barrett Croslin and Zach Denney took called third strikes to end the Panthers’ district game against Franklin-Simpson May 19, it also ended the careers of two of the best-known baseball players in Russellville baseball history.

Coach Greg Shelton’s Panthers had fallen behind the Wildcats 6-1 after four innings and were struggling to compete with the powerful Franklin team. The Panthers, however, refused to give up and cut the lead to 7-6 before losing 8-6 on the Logan County High School field.

Russellville scored first, looking sharp in the process. With two outs, senior Corey Wright singled and--as the pitcher--gave way to courtesy runner T.K. Hampton. Jacob Procter followed with a single, sending Hampton to third.

Shelton drew the Wildcats into an ill-advised throw. When Procter purposely wondered off the base, veteran Franklin catcher Tim Wimpee threw down to pick him off. Hampton raced to the plate and stole home for the first run of the game. And Procter was safe.

After that, Franklin pitcher Jeff England retired 11 straight Panthers. When he fanned Logan Hannah as the leadoff batter in the fifth, it was his fourth strikeout.

Then the Panthers started coming back. Wesley Stratton became the first to reach on a walk. F-S coach Craig Delk sensed trouble, though, as evidence by his calling a meeting on the mound. He was right. Number nine hitter Colby Nichols immediately doubled in Stratton. The Panthers’ second hit of the game produced their second run.

The Panthers’ third hit—the second of the inning—drove in the third run in the person of pinch runner Brennan Hughes. The RBI came off the bat of Croslin, a five-year starter. It would be his last hit as a Panther. Croslin, who also has been a multi-year starter in football and basketball, has signed to play baseball for Vol State Community College in Gallatin, Tenn.

The Cats’ lead was down to 6-4, but Franklin added a run in the bottom of the fifth on a walk to Cam Richardson, a sacrifice by Logan Alderson and an RBI fielder’s choice by Seth Johnson, also a number nine hitter.

RHS cut the lead to 7-6 in the top of the sixth.  Procter got his second hit, Jordan Blick reached on an error, and Desmon Quarles hit an RBI single, driving in Procter. Hannah lofted a fly ball to center, bringing in pinch runner Evan Humphrey with the final run.

Franklin added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth off reliever Croslin. Tyler Knight doubled and with two outs, Richardson doubled him in.

Wildcat ace reliever Devin Gregory came to the mound, the door was shut. The Panthers went down in order in the seventh. Nichols grounded out to second and Croslin and Denney went down on called strike threes.

For Franklin, Colton Hurt had four hits with T.C. Stubblefield and Austin Johnson getting three each. Hurt, Stubblefield and Alderson each scored two runs.

Wright, who has been a starting pitcher since he was in the fifth grade, pitched well at times in this game.

This ended the RHS baseball careers of Denney and Croslin, who became the first of the 10 members of the Logan County Little League All-Stars who played in the World Series to finish their scholastic eligibility.

All 10 were starters in district games that night. The other Panther from that World Series is Quarles, a junior. Logan County started seven Little League World Series All-Star—Tucker Baldwin, Daniel Beaty, Caleb Bruner, Matt Harper, Joe Holliday, Ian Woodall and Jacob Wood.

This Monday three more of those 2009 Little Leaguers saw their prep careers end when the Cougars lost in the regional tournament. Joining Croslin and Denney are Wood, Woodall and Holliday.

Franklin-Simpson extended its season by beating Bowling Green 4-1 in the first round of the region.

In softball, both 13th District team lost at regional on Memorial Day. Defending state champion Greenwood edged Franklin 3-2 while Allen County-Scottsville shut out Todd Central.

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