BONHAM — Josh Weger was worried how his Bells Panthers would respond to an almost two-week layoff between games.
Making the school’s first postseason appearance in the sport in almost a decade, the Panthers decisively assuaged his concerns.
Junior Hunter Hawthorne struck out 14 and allowed only two hits as Bells benefited from Honey Grove miscues during a 12-0 five-inning win in a Class 2A Region II bi-district match-up on Friday.
“Hawthorne set the tone on the mound,” said Weger, whose starter threw just 69 pitches and faced only three over the minimum. “We had a good approach at the plate and that was a good pitcher out there (for Honey Grove). Eventually, it paid off.”
Myles Knudsen struck out nine and allowed a pair of hits in the second and third innings in the loss for Honey Grove.
Bells (18-7) will play Muenster this week in the area round.
The first inning foreshadowed the divergent fortunes for the teams on Friday. Hayden Lane singled between up the middle with two outs for Honey Grove but advanced no farther as Hawthorne completed striking out the side via the next batter. Chance Morse walked with two outs for Bells, moving around the bases on passed balls and scoring on a misplayed grounder.
The Panthers then scored seven in the second inning via only two hits to take control, benefiting from errors.
Leading 1-0, Bells loaded the bases with one out in the second as Jacob Taylor doubled into the left-field corner, a pitch hit Kason Huschke and Tyler Hawthorne walked. The trio scored during the next two at bats: Taylor and Huschke came home together on a misplayed ground ball and ensuing errant throw while Tyler Hawthorne followed on a dropped third strike and following passed ball.
Morse doubled in two more — Stephen Hinds and Hunter Hawthorne — with a hard-hit roller between the third baseman’s legs. He scored on an ensuing battery error during the next at bat.
Matthew Conner walked and added the final run on a two-out infield error as the Panthers led 8-0 after two innings.
In the third, Bells added four more, highlighted by Morse’s one-out, two-run double to left center to score Hinds and Hunter Hawthorne. Sandwiched around the extra-base hit, Tyler Hawthorne and Morse came home, respectively, on a dropped third strike and infield error.
Despite his second-consecutive extended break between times on the mound, Hunter Hawthorne remained unaffected. He struck out the side in fourth in order and worked around a one-out infield single off his glove by Taylor Juarez-Conner in the fifth to do it.
“We made sure he threw between innings and tried not to lose focus,” Weger said. “We have been working on that all year and are getting better.”