Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

March 5, 2014

Americus-Sumter takes down Albany in extra-inning thriller to win region opener

AMERICUS — Americus-Sumter’s Panther baseball team earned their first win of the year on Friday night, and it could not have come at a better time. In their Region 1-AAAA opener, Panther outfielder Jonathan Thomas ended the eight inning affair by scoring on a passed ball to finalize an action-packed 11-10 Americus-Sumter victory.

As the home team, Americus-Sumter took the field for the top half of the first inning. Head coach Todd Vickery tabbed Isaiah Ingram to take the mound as the Panther starter, and in the top of the opening frame Ingram mowed down the competition and held the Indians scoreless.

Americus-Sumter failed to score in the bottom of the first, and Albany took advantage in the top of the second inning by bringing home one run. The Panthers battled back in the bottom of the second, however, and after scoring two runs of their own they claimed a 2-1 lead.

The second and third innings were also won by Americus-Sumter. With Ingram dealing two shutout innings on the mound, the Panther offense scored three in the bottom of the third and one in the bottom of the fourth to stretch their lead out to 6-1.

Albany chipped away at the Panther lead by outscoring Americus-Sumter 2-0 in the fifth, and they finally tied the contest in with three runs in the top of the sixth inning. Although Americus-Sumter was able to take a lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Indians matched their run in the top of the seventh and held the home team scoreless in the bottom of the frame to force extra innings.

The Indians kept their momentum alive in the top of the eighth inning with three runs to take all of the wind out of Americus-Sumter’s sails. The Panthers were not giving up without a fight though, and they quickly scored three runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game and set up a walk-off performance.

Thomas, who was often seen sprinting past defenders on the gridiron during the fall, showed that he also has game-changing potential on the diamond. With the game tied at 10-10, Thomas walked on a wild pitch and sprinted down the baseline to also take second base as the ball reached the backstop. With Albany’s pitcher in the windup, Thomas quickly swiped third base on the next pitch, which was also a wild pitch. With Thomas getting such a huge lead, Vickery waved the senior around third base. As the catcher hustled back to get the ball, he threw a strike to the pitcher covering home, but it was too late as Thomas slid under the tag to score the winning run on a bang-bang play at the dish. The unusual walk-off score by Thomas gave the Panthers an 11-10 victory and a 1-0 record in Region 1-AAAA play.

“I was proud of the way we battled back after going down by three in the top of the eighth,” Vickery said. “We had some good at-bats in the bottom of the eighth and took advantage of the opportunities we were given. Isaiah also pitched a great game and battled through errors and miscues.”

Vickery was also proud of how the entire team pulled together to win their region opener after starting the season with two losses.

“Everyone contributed in this win. It was a true team effort from start to finish. I was really proud of how we responded as a team throughout the entire game,” he said.

Several Panther players started their region run off with big days at the plate to lead to the win. Mike Russell had three hits including two doubles, and Justin Vickery added three hits and two RBIs. Thomas ended the game with two hits and two RBIs, and left fielder D.J. Harris drove in two runs with one hit and also drew three walks.

Ingram’s strong night on the mound consisted of 7.2 innings pitched and nine strikeouts. Alex Gonzalez earned the win after pitching one-third of an inning and striking out one batter.

Americus-Sumter continues region play this week with two difficult road tests. The Panthers will travel to Worth County tonight to take on the Rams before tripping to Cairo to take on the Syrupmakers on Friday night. The Worth County game will begin at 5:30 p.m., and the Cairo game will begin at 7:30 p.m.


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