Panthers win Class A regional
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Three hours after they had scored four runs, the Russellville Panthers held on for a 6-3 win over Cumberland County to capture the Class A Fourth Region baseball championship Saturday at Kelly Russell Field.

Eighth grader Corey Wright showed either no nerves or a lot of nerve in striking out the potential winning run with the bases loaded and two outs in the final inning.

Senior ace Darren Murphy had pitched a 5-0 shutout over Monroe County in the semifinals that morning. KHSAA rules allowed him three more innings on the day, and Coach Lou Kendall elected to start him in the finals. He made it nine scoreless innings and left the mound with a 4-0 lead.

Those four runs had come in the first inning. Andre Edmonds led off with a single, stole second and scored on Thomas Shifflett's double. Shifflett was thrown out trying to steal third, but D.J. Quarles singled and went to second on a throwing error. After Murphy flied out to the warning track, Dudley Bouldin doubled in Quarles. Catcher Seth Washington was hit by a pitch, and courtesy runner Layton Bush eventually scored on an error. Caleb Wills singled in a run, and D.J. Watkins picked up the Panthers' sixth hit of the inning.

Shifflett and Quarles got their second hits in the second inning, but Murphy and Bouldin couldn't bring them home.

In the fourth inning, Edmonds got his second hit, followed by the third straight hit for both Shifflett and Quarles. Edmonds managed the only run, though, with Shifflett getting the RBI.

In the sixth, Washington walked and Wills doubled for his second hit, but Barrett Croslin's fly ball was caught, and Edmonds ended the inning on a called strikeout.

Shifflett's fourth hit was a booming home run to lead off the sixth. Quarles added his fourth hit and Bouldin walked, but they were stranded. It was 6-1.

Pitching didn't go as well for Shifflett as his hitting did. The team's number two pitcher both this year and as a freshman, he couldn't find his groove Saturday, perhaps affected by the low late-afternoon sun this time of year that makes it difficult for pitchers to see batters the way the field is angled. He faced 18 batters in three and a third innings, allowing three runs. His first seven pitches of the seventh inning were called balls, although he threw three straight strikes after that. When Shifflett issued his second walk of the inning to the third batter, Kendall had seen enough and called on Wright.

The young hurler walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, so the next two batters represented what could be the winning run. On a 1-2 count he got D.J. Carter to hit a ball to center field. Shifflett, who had returned to that position, not only made the catch but ran the ball in, holding the runner at third. Then on a 1-2 count, Wright hit the outside corner for a called third strike, a third out and a game-ender. No one seemed happier than Shifflett.

Panthers 5, Monroe County 0
In Saturday morning's action, the Falcons, who had eliminated Todd Central the night before, weren't able to mount any offense against Murphy, who pitched a 2-hitter while stroking out 10 and walking just one batter.
In the first inning, Edmonds reached on an error, and Murphy and Bouldin each singled. The Panthers led 2-0. Quarles singled and scored on Murphy's ground-rule double in the third.

The final two runs scored in the fourth. Washington and Watkins each singled before Edmonds and Shifflett each walked.

School officials didn't know who Russellville's sub-state opponent will be or where the game will be played. The Panthers, who play a district game at Todd Central Tuesday, improved their record to 7-2 overall. All seven wins have come at home.

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