KNOXVILLE — The Knoxville Panthers were host to the Mustangs from Prairie City-Monroe Wednesday night, and what looked like an easy win suddenly became a nail-biter.
Freshman hurler Carson Uitermarkt was sailing along with the game pretty much in control. He had built a 10-3 lead over six innings and with the pitch count rising, Knoxville Coach Turner DeVore decided to make a pitching change.
Niko Lacona was called in to close out the final inning. Lacona did not pitch poorly, but in the twists and turns of the game of baseball, the Mustang bats came to life. With one out, Sage Burns rapped a single through the middle followed by a pair of walks to load the bases. Then with two out, Ethan Mitchell belted a triple and Tate Lindsay followed with a single.
Lacona was now faced with the tying runs on base and the winning run at the plate. But he bore down and got the strikeout he needed to close things down.
PCM had taken a 2-0 lead after two and one half innings, when the Panthers found an offensive explosion. Bode Cox opened the inning with a base hit, then with one out Dakota Ramsey’s force out erased courtesy runner, Grant Liston for the second out.
Sometimes getting that third out is very difficult and that was the case for the Mustangs. Beau Leisure hit a sizzling shot past third and Evan Eck ripped a shot through the middle to score Ramsey. Jaxon Zuck then laced a single to right scoring Leisure and when the ball got away, Eck scored as well. Hayden Hatch reached on an infield single and he along with Zuck would score when Mike Hudson clubbed a triple to the fence in centerfield. Luke Spaur was plunked by a pitch and another shot by Cox would score both Hudson and Spaur for a 7-2 Panther lead.
Knoxville would add another run in the fourth when Ramsey waited out a base on balls, moved up on an infield hit by Leisue, stole third and scored on an error. In the fifth another run went up when Hudson reached on an error and scored on the third hit of the game by Cox.
The final Panther run was scored in the bottom of the sixth when Zuck hit a one out single, Hatch reached on an error, Hudson legged out an infield hit and Spaur drew a base on balls for the RBI. The stage was set for a tension filled top of the seventh.
It was senior night for the Panthers and each of the four seniors played key roles in the victory. Hudson led the hitting with a triple and a pair of singles to drive in two runs. Cox added three hits and drove in three runs while Zuck added a pair of hits and an RBI and Eck posted a hit and an RBI.
“We hit the ball well tonight,” DeVore said. “We squared up on a lot of balls and just continued the pace we set against B-F last night. Carson did a great job on the mound and kept them off balance. Niko was alright, they just hit a hot streak against him.”
It has been an uphill climb, but the Panthers are now above .500 with a 16-15 record. There is a tough road ahead as Knoxville travels to Mt. Pleasant for a pair on Thursday and then teams like Indianola and WDM Dowling loom on the future schedule before district play opens at Carlisle.
PCM 0 1 1 0 0 1 5 8 9 5
Knoxville 0 0 7 1 1 1 X 10 15 3
Knoxville Battery – Carson Uitermarkt (WP) 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, Niko Lacona 1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K and Bode Cox
Knoxville hitting – Mike Hudson 3-for-4, Luke Spaur 1-for-3, Cox 3-for-5, Trenten Kingery 2-for-4, Beau Leisure 2-for-4, Evan Eck 1-for-3, Jaxon Zuck 2-for-4, Hayden Hatch 1-for-4
Knoxville runs – Hudson 2, Spaur 1, Dakota Ramsey 2, Leisure 1, Eck 1, Zuck 2, Hatch 1
Knoxville RBI – Hudson 2, Spaur 1, Cox 3, Eck 1, Zuck 1
3B – Hudson 1