Portal tops Lincoln County in crazy contest
Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is no difference theory and practice in practice there is.”
The quote itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because sometimes baseball doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Pitchers can throw no hitters and lose, a pitcher can commit an error and the run won’t count against him — baseball can famously be random, weird and glorious all at the same time.
Perhaps the pinnacle of all things random, weird and glorious came to a point in Portal Friday night in the Panthers’ 11-10 win over Lincoln County. Eight lead changes, 12 combined errors and three balks were just some of the highlights to emerge from the craziness that was Friday’s game.
“We want to keep fans here entertained for all seven innings,” said head coach Dennis Moore, albeit in a lighthearted tone. “After losing your last three, anytime you can pull out a win it always feels good.”
For starters, at one point Portal had tied the game 4-4 without registering a hit. Up until the bottom of the fifth Portal had manufactured all of its runs via walks, a wild pitch and a passed ball. All eight baserunners had come from five walks, three errors and a hit batter. It was baseball buffoonery at its finest.
But Portal wasn’t innocent of the night’s antics either. With the game tied 4-4, the Panthers allowed Lincoln County to take back control of the game on a series of infield blunders to make things 5-4 in favor of the Red Devils.
With the bases loaded and one out, what should have been a double play turned into a fielder’s choice when a throw to first to complete a 6-4-3 double play hit the dirt and skidded by Portal first baseman Keegan McCoy. That allowed the two runners in scoring position to cross the plate and gave Lincoln County a 7-4 advantage.
“We had a handful of mistakes there, but we’ve had plenty of games where we’ve had two handfuls,” Moore said. “But tonight was definitely an improvement.”
The latter half of the frame is where the real fireworks would ensue. Jake Brown would step into the box from the left side and took a big hack at a pitch thrown by Lincoln pitcher Josh Hahn. Upon missing, a spectator from the Lincoln side of the crowd decided to take a jab at the Brewton-Parker signee.
“He’s just a freshman!” is what the fan yelled at Brown, in reference to Hahn’s year in school.
Brown, a senior, took exception to the shenanigans and showed up the entire Lincoln County gallery by belting the very next pitch 335 feet over the fence in right-centerfield for a home run to cut into Lincoln’s lead 7-5. It was only appropriate that Brown’s response is what ignited the rally that would eventually win the game for the Panthers.
“I know I don’t look like a big guy, but when I heard him say that I just wanted to show them who I really was,” Brown said. “When I swung it just worked out in my favor.”
Fischer Oglesby would double in the next at-bat, and a single by McCoy brought him around to third and then to score after the left fielder dropped the ball on his way to field McCoy’s hit. McCoy would score after an errant pick-off attempt by the Lincoln catcher went through the legs of the third baseman to tie the game 7-7.
After another walk, Cody Clark would reach base on an error that plated Blaise Murphy to take the lead, and a triple by Jamal Simpkins broke the game open 10-7 on Portal’s behalf. In all, the bottom of the fifth produced seven runs for Portal off of six hits and three Lincoln County errors to give the Panthers an 11-7 lead.
However Portal nearly gave the lead right back in the top of the seventh after a pair of doubles pushed across three more runs for Lincoln County to make it 11-10 with only one out. But senior pitcher Landon Stephens was able to strand the tying run at second base by striking out pinch hitter Thomas Madison and forcing a grounder to second for Clark to finish off the crazy game with a throw to first.
“Most of the time when we can score runs like we did tonight it’s because our seniors were stepping up,” Moore said. “And tonight all three of them played a key role.”
In all, Lincoln County committed seven errors to go along with 10 hits. While Portal only had seven hits, it capitalized on all of Lincoln’s flubs to eventually pull out its sixth win of the season.
Brown and Oglesby would each notch two hits and score two runs, but it was Simpkins’ triple and bases loaded walk that would credit him with a team-high three RBI. Brown registered nine strikeouts on the mound as the starting pitcher.
Portal (6-14, 1-10 Region 3-A) will face Montgomery County (1-21, 0-11) on Tuesday in their cross-division region tournament play-in game. The Panthers will play at Montgomery before finishing the series in Portal on Thursday.