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Britt’s homer lifts Panthers

J.D. Britt provided some heroics at the plate and in the fieldThursday night, helping the Brookhaven Panthers rally past the WestJones Mustangs 7-3 on muddy Moyer Field. Britt’s towering 3-runhomer in the fifth highlighted a 5-run explosion as the Pantherscaptured their first-ever Region 5-5A baseball test.

On the mound, Britt authored 1.1 innings of 1-hit relief in supportof a gritty 5-hit performance by senior southpaw Brandon Foster.Britt entered the game with two away and the bases loaded in thesixth. He fanned Vito Perna to end the West Jones threat.

“Our team has been working hard and we deserved to win it,” saidBritt, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior who moved from third base tothe mound. “Brandon set us up and did a good job.”

Foster (3-0) remained unbeaten. He gave up three runs on five hits,striking out five and walking five. The Mustangs (4-2, 0-1) sprangto a 3-0 lead in the top of the first but came up empty the rest ofthe 3-hour game, leaving nine runners stranded on base.

Britt credited first baseman Patrick Valentine with scooping twolong throws from third base out of the dirt. “Patrick saved metwice. I had to give him a hug.”

Asked about the home run, Britt said, “I could read him (pitcherVito Perna). I knew he was throwing a fastball. It worked out forthe best.”

Perna, a senior right-hander, fanned eight batters and walked threebefore exiting.

The Panthers plated an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.Foster and Gabe Wilson slapped singles through the infield, settingthe stage for a Brice Huckaby RBI single to right.

Ole Brook coach Randy Spring was pleased with the comeback victoryagainst a strong West Jones squad. In his team’s 2004 statechampionship campaign, the Panthers had beaten West Jones in theSouth 4A state playoffs.

“We felt like if we kept on slugging, we would eventually dosomething good,” said Spring. “We had another slow start but wehave been resilient.”

Spring lauded Foster’s effort. “He’s a tough little cookie. He hungin there and got the job done.”

Trailing 3-0 in the first, BHS pushed home a run after ElliottMcKee and Wilson singled. McKee scored on an outfield error, thefirst of six Mustang miscues.

In the fifth, courtesy runner Houston Case scored Brook’s secondrun on a sacrifice fly to center by Wilson. The tying run scored onan overthrow at second base.

Scottie Peavey reached on an error and Huckaby took a pitch in theribs from Perna, setting the stage for Britt’s 3-run shot over theleft field fence.

“J.D. is a big, strong kid,” said Spring. “We know he’s capable ofthat kind of power. It’s no surprise.”

Spring’s Panthers (5-1, 1-0) host McComb tonight for another Region5-5A showdown, starting with a junior varsity game at 5. West Jonesedged Brook’s JV 11-9 last night.

On Saturday, the Panthers host Enterprise at 11 a.m. and Loyd Starat 1:30.

BROOKHAVEN 7, WEST JONES 3

West Jones 300 000 0 — 3 6 6

Brookhaven 100 051 x — 7 7 1

Vito Perna, Chase Ward (5), Chase Stewart (6) and Casey Wells.Brandon Foster, J.D. Britt (6) and J.B. Perkins. WP: Foster (3-0).LP: Perna. HR: Britt (B). 2B: Wells (WJ), Brody Freeman (WJ).Multiple hits: Gabe Wilson (B) 2. Single hits: West Jones (DerekBynum, Ben Stevens, Jordan Koechner, Matthew Farrar). Brookhaven(Elliott McKee, Foster, Brice Huckaby, Patrick Valentine).