The Panthers of Russellville went into the Region 4 tournament with a daunting task of rebounding quickly after a deflating loss to their arch rivals in Logan County in the District 13 title game. The task would get even taller when they found out that they would have to take on Glasgow in the first round game. The Glasgow Scotties were consider by numerous media outlets a top 3 region team and the main contender to Bowling Green to take home the crown.
But the Panthers were chomping at the bit to extend their season at least one more game and give themselves a chance to the take home their first region title in coach Lou Kendall’s final season.
After a five inning affair, the Panthers flat out crushed the Scotties 14-0 to advance to the semi final round.
“When you get the combination of great pitching, defense and hitting we got you got a chance to win games against really good teams,” RHS head coach Lou Kendall said. “My team has been playing hard all year, and I told them this year was not about me, it was about the players, play hard for yourself and good things will happen.”
The hit parade started early in the first when the Panthers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. But the coaching staff knew with two other runners in scoring position that it could have been a lot more. Glasgow had the response that was expected getting two runners into scoring position with only one out but the pitching and defense of the Panthers saw to it that they were left stranded. In the second the Panthers managed to add another run but with two outs the Scotties were hoping to keep the damage to a minimum.
A two out four run rally though saw to that as the Panthers went into the bottom of the second up 5-0.
The Scotties and Panthers would exchange scoreless innings in the third but the Panthers were back at in the fourth. They would scratch across another run but the knock out blow was there that Glasgow managed to escape from.
They couldn’t escape a second knock out blow as the Panthers mounted an eight run rally in the top of the fifth to blow the game wide open going up 14-0 over the District 15 champion.
“Somebody said they didn’t throw their number one, but we saw two, three and four,” coach Kendall said. “Glasgow beat a lot of great teams this year, they are a very good team.”
A perfect bottom half of the fifth and the Panthers cruised into the Region 4 semi finals where they would face the Spartans of South Warren. The Panthers were ready to notch another victory over a district champion under their belt.
But the Spartans hot offense flared to life in the first inning and continued burning through Russellville pitching throughout the game in a 16-4 loss for the Panthers.
“When you go hunting for bears, sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you,” coach Kendall said. “I’m so proud of my team, I don’t know how many people could have stopped that team from swinging the bats the way they did tonight.”
The South Warren Spartans chased Russellville’s starter from the game early as they were swinging early and often. The Spartans offense kept right on clicking as they hung six first inning runs before finally Russellville got out of the inning.
“It was just tremendous, up and down that line up and our defense might not have been their best, but it wasn’t our defense that cost us that game,” coach Kendall said. “Their offense is unbelievable.”
The offense that had hammered Glasgow was ready to show that they could do just as much damage if not more, but the Spartans pitching baffled their bats for the first two innings. With their ace being saved for a possible championship game the Spartans pitching wasn’t suppose to be as strong as it was but it held the Panthers from mounting any sustained rally.
“Their starting pitcher was tough, when you throw a fastball 84 and then come back with a 64 mph breaking pitch,” coach Kendall said.
In the third inning the Spartans delivered the knock out blow as they scored nine runs to extend the lead to 15-1. They would tag on another run in the fourth.
The Panther’s offense finally got out of their funk in the fifth as they mounted a desperate rally to extend the game, and more importantly the season. They tacked on three more runs but the Spartans closed the door on the season with a 15-4 loss handed to the Panthers.
“I have no regrets, you can second guess all you want, we thought we could come in here and win the baseball game but it just wasn’t in the card,” coach Kendall said.
The Panthers will lose the top three hitters in their line up and they served vital positions in the field as well as Seth Washington held down the fort at catcher, Caleb Wills was a spectacular everyday position player, and Thomas Shifflett was a defensive stalwart in center field.
They also lose their head coach Lou Kendall and assistant head coach in Kenneth Edmonds who helped guide the Panthers to unprecedented success for all these seasons.
But the talent cupboard is there for the next coach to have immediate success next season as they hope to make a deeper run in the region tournament.