SPRING GARDEN – The Spring Garden Panthers lived on the edge throughout the postseason, but somehow they managed to keep from falling off.
They were on the edge again on Friday afternoon in the Class 2A quarterfinals against sixth-ranked Mars Hill Bible, but this time they fell hard.
The visiting Panthers jumped on No. 4 Spring Garden early and kept pouring it on in a 13-0 season-ending decision in six innings.
Mars Hill (25-14) advances to next weekend’s state semifinals, where it will face second-ranked Westbrook Christian. Spring Garden’s season ends at 25-16.
“It was a bad habit, although I didn’t worry too much about them when they would fall behind because we have been successful with that all year,” Spring Garden coach Tony Benefield said. “I told them it had been nibbling at our ankles all year and it finally bit us right in a bad spot today.”
Spring Garden managed just four hits and a walk against Mars Hill starter Peyton Higgins. Two of those hits came from senior designated hitter Grayden Guthrie. Guthrie singled to center in the second inning and doubled to left in the fourth.
Guthrie’s double was the only extra-base hit Higgins surrendered.
“The Higgins kid stepped it up today,” Benefield said. “He did what a senior is supposed to do. We couldn’t hit him very well. We couldn’t piece hits together to get runs. We hit him a little here and there, but not enough to keep us in it.”
Mars Hill manufactured a run in the first, then scored three more in the second to take a 4-0 lead. Higgins helped himself in the second with a two-run single. He finished the game going 3-for-4 at the plate with a walk.
The Panthers from Florence added single runs in the fourth and the fifth on Spring Garden errors to increase their lead to 6-0, then put the game out of reach with a seven-run sixth.
“There in the fifth inning, we kind of let it get away from us a little bit,” Benefield said. “One mistake led into another mistake and the score got out of hand. We went from 4-0 to 12-0 real quick.
“You live on the edge all the time and sometimes you fall off the edge. We fell off of it today.”
Mars Hill shortstop Josh Bowerman went 2-for-3 with home run to right field in the sixth. He also had a run-scoring single in the same inning and drew a walk in the top of the first.
Designated hitter Lane Lambert was 2-for-4 with a walk. He also drove in a pair of runs. First baseman Koby Keenum walked three times and had a hit. Catcher Sam Williams singled, walked twice and was hit by a pitch.
Catcher Luke Welsh and starting pitcher Cam Welsh both singled for Spring Garden. Center fielder Chaz Pope drew a walk.
Cam Welsh suffered the loss after working 4 2/3 innings. He finished with five walks and three strikeouts.
“We had a good year,” Benefield said. “We won a lot of games. We’ve got a great group of seniors. I’ve never coached a group of seniors as talented as this group was. They were very competitive, the most competitive group I’ve ever coached. They ended a long series of wins. They didn’t win today, but they’ve won in every sport. They’ve won in football, won in basketball and won a lot of games in baseball. It’s sad to see it come to an end for them. They have left a legacy here. I love them, and that’s what I told them in the locker room.”
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