First-place Bells defeats Whitewright
BELLS — The ball was heading towards the right field wall after it had been misplayed into a double and from his spot at second base, Keaton High gave chase.
He ran it down to hold Dylan Gudgel to just a double, the effort coming from a player who had been scuffling with the bat for a couple of games and knowing he could help out in another area.
“I can’t let what I do at the plate carry over. I still need to be at the top of my game,” High said. “When I see it get past there it’s anybody’s ball. I’ve got to go get it.”
Even though the runner eventually scored later in the fifth inning, it was an act worthy of approval from the baseball gods. Hitless in his previous three at-bats and his last eight overall, High ripped a single to left the next inning as part of the final push on the scoreboard in the first-place Panthers’ 10-1 victory over Whitewright.
“Right there is karma for a great effort that you want to see,” Bells head coach Kent Craig said. “We talk about it all the time so much the kids are probably sick of hearing it. Control the controllables — energy, attitude, effort. After that, you can’t control any of it.”
Right now Bells (15-3, 5-0) has control of first place as it heads to Whitewright on Friday to complete the home-and-home series.
Landon Morse was 4-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI and his spot in the order scored three times while allowing an earned run on three hits with nine strikeouts and two walks in five innings, Landon Nelson was 2-for-4 with two RBI and scored and Cooper Smith singled, scored and drove in a pair for the Panthers.
Cooper Coley and Karsten Fabian singled for Whitewright (5-11, 3-2), which dropped into a three-way tie with Pottsboro and Bonham for second place.
“The best four teams are going to make the playoffs and it looks like there are more than four teams capable of getting there,” Craig said. “We can’t worry about other teams. We talk about how perfect can we be in an inning. After the game I look at who had the most quality at-bats. Their baseball IQs’ really good.”
The Panthers closed out the scoring in the sixth when High had his one-out single and Morse smashed his second double to left field for another run. He was safe on an error when he was caught in a rundown between second and third, Hayden Trainor walked to put runners at the corners and Smith had a sac fly to left on an error that extended the inning.
Bells tacked on three runs in the fifth to break the game open. Morse and Smith singled around the first out and Preston Carter followed with an RBI hit to right-center.
Nelson had a two-run single back through the box and the advantage grew to seven runs.
Whitewright avoided the shutout in the top of the fifth when Gudgel had his one-out double, moved up a groundout and scored on a wild pitch to trim the deficit to 5-1.
The Tigers' other chance to score was in the top of the third. Coley and Fabian singled around a strikeout. On a pitch in the dirt, Coley tried to advance to third but catcher Kohler High threw him out. Xy’rion Daniels walked on the next pitch — Whitewright would have had the bases loaded with one out — and instead Morse finished off the threat with a strikeout.
“The maturation on that kid is amazing,” Craig said. “When he puts it all funnelled in, he’s pretty good and you’re seeing some of that.”
Kasey Sanders had a one-out walk in the fourth and Clayton Warford’s leadoff walk against Ben Burleson in the sixth was erased with a double-play as the reliever got his six outs in order to end the game.
Bells took a 5-0 advantage when Morse came through with two outs in the second. The Panthers loaded the bases immediately — Nelson and Burleson sandwiched singles around a Lane Kendrick walk — but it looked like Warford would get out of the inning. He induced a pair of popouts before Morse doubled near the left-field line and an error on the play cleared the bases.
The Panthers jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Tanner Carter opened with a double off the base of the right-center wall before Keaton High hit a cue shot bounding towards first. The Tigers got the out but left home plate uncovered and Carter raced around from second.
Morse had an infield single, Trainor followed with a ground-rule double to left and Smith had a sac fly to shallow right that courtesy runner Kaden Pyle was able to score on with a slide under the tag at the plate.