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Panthers in big win

It was a big win.

Brookhaven pitcher Scotty Smith made a strong statement on themound and the Panthers roared to an 8-5 Friday night victory overthe George County Rebels in the opening Round of the Class 4A stateregional playoffs here on Moyer Field.

“It was a big win for us,” said Smith. “It’s been a long timesince Brookhaven has won a playoff game.”

Smith (7-2), a senior right-hander, scattered 8 hits, struck out7 batters, walked none and hit 2.

“I pitched pretty good,” said Smith. “Our team played awfullygood defense tonight.”

The Panthers (22-5) earned the right to host the regional bywinning the Division 6-4A title. Terry, the No. 4 team in thedivision, almost upset Laurel in Friday’s opening round but theBulldogs committed a series of errors and Laurel prevailed 7-6,scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the seventh.

“The whole key was us getting on them early and putting thepressure on them,” said BHS head coach Randy Spring. His Panthersexploded for 6 runs in the bottom of the first inning.

“The first inning set the tone and gave us an advantage,” saidSpring. “Scotty is a bulldog who battles and battles. He gives youa chance to win.”

The 6-run first inning was decisive. Brookhaven jumped on GeorgeCounty starter Brett Davis after 2 batters had been retired. BrooksHall was hit by a pitch. Adam Ogden and Grant McDonnieal drewback-to-back walks to load the bases.

Smith, the next batter, hit a high pop fly behind second basewhich was dropped by the center fielder. It allowed 2 runs toscore.

Designated hitter Josh Patrick singled through the mound and itwas 4-0. Brandt Hinton followed with a double down the left fieldline. W.T. King slapped a 2-RBI double and it was 6-0.

“I wish we could replay the first inning,” said George Countycoach Bruce Thornton. “We needed to make a play on that flyball.

“We were nervous at first but we came back and played well,”Thornton continued. “Smith did a great job. He throws strikes. Hecame after us and challenged us to hit it.”

Smith was touched for 3 runs in the third after 2 batters hadbeen retired. Third baseman Justin Casey smashed a double to theleft field fence, scoring the Rebels’ first run. A wild throw on abases loaded ground ball allowed 2 more runs to score. BHSshortstop Brooks Hall had made a diving stop of a ground ball butthrew wide on the force at second base.

In the sixth, Rebel catcher Matt Howell sliced a 2-run doubleover the third base bag, cutting Brookhaven’s lead to 6-5.

The Panthers responded with a pair of insurance runs in thesixth. Darius Perkins slapped a 1-out single to left. Xavier Quallsdrew a base on balls. Perkins scored on a passed ball. Hall reachedon a dropped popup by second baseman Cameron Naron. Hall stolethird base and scored his team’s 8th run on a wild pitch.

Davis (4-7), a strong right-hander, fanned 8 batters and walked3, allowing 6 hits. He didn’t issue a walk after the firstinning.