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Panthers in region test tonight

The Brookhaven Panther baseball team’s second season gets underway today in Meridian. The defending Class 4A state champions startdefense of their title against host Northeast Lauderdale, in thefirst round of the South State 4A playoffs. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Northeast Lauderdale Trojans (No.1 in Division 5-4A) willhost Terry, No. 2 team from Division 6-4A; along with West Jones(No. 3 in Division 5-4A) and Brookhaven, the No. 4 team fromDivision 6-4A.

NE Lauderdale Regional

The Panthers faced all 3 regional opponents last season in theirplayoff run to the state title. Ole Brook defeated Terry twiceduring the regular season. Brookhaven swept a pair from NELauderdale the second round and defeated West Jones 2-1 for theSouth State championship series.

The Panthers captured the title, 2 games to 1 over Pontotoc,with the deciding game played at Smith-Wills Stadium inJackson.

Brookhaven, the No. 6-ranked team in the final regular seasonSouthwest MS Super 7, has won 10 of its last 13 games. Included inthat span are wins over No.3 Cathedral, No. 5 North Pike andprevious ranked Magee. Ole Brook had several losses by 3 runs orless this season.

“We have been competitive all year long,” said Spring. “Weplayed Hattiesburg, Petal and Lawrence County close.”

Spring’s ballclub lost 8 seniors off that championship team, butreturned to the playoffs despite a 16-12 worksheet for the 2005campaign. The team is batting .326 with 15 homers and 153 RBIs.

“We lost 8 seniors of the state championship team last year,”said Spring who is in his sixth year at BHS. “But this year’s teamhas improved a lot, since the start of the year.”

Spring’s senior trio of Darius Perkins, Grant McDonnieal and GuyOrr; along with junior Garion Crockett pace the Panthers at theplate. Perkins, an outfielder/pitcher, leads the team with a .433batting and is tied with Crockett for the team lead in home runswith 5. Crockett leads the team in RBIs with 31, and bats .378.

McDonnieal, an infielder, bats .359 with a homer and 22 RBIs.Orr, an infielder/outfielder, hits a .351 clip.

On the mound, Ole Brook sports a 2.38 earned runs average.Junior Brandt Hinton leads the staff with a 6-3 record, has struckout 56 batters in 51.2 innings. Perkins (3-2, 1 save) has fanned 32batters in 27.2 innings. Paxton King (2-3, 2 saves, 2.92 ERA) hastossed 38.1 innings, with 47 strikeouts. Cole Newell, Josh Coone,and Zach Watson have seen action on the mound this year.

“Our pitching staff has done a good job,” added Spring. “We willneed to get back to playing good defense like we did several weeksago.”

“NE Lauderdale, Terry and West Jones are quality teams in thisregional,” added Spring.

Northeast Lauderdale, coached by Reggie Richardson, is led bypitcher Corey Chase; who has 7 of the team’s 13 wins. Terry, underthe direction of Jerry Gibson, gets offensive support from seniorJess Shelby. West Jones is coached by Wade Clark.

Spring, who is assisted by Eric Stokes, Jaymie Palmer andDewayne Oberschmidt, says that that key to his team’s success willdepend on getting a balanced attack.

“If we get runners in scoring position, plus drive those runnersin; we will be in pretty good shape,” said Spring. “We need to playgood, solid defense.”