With a district loaded with top-notch talent, Lufkin head coach John Cobb knew it would be a fight for the Panthers to punch a return ticket to the playoffs. If Tuesday night’s district opener is any indication, it will be quite a ride.
College Park got the early upper hand on the Panthers as it scored a run on an error in the eighth inning as the Cavaliers escaped with a 4-3 win over the Panthers in eight innings at Morris Frank Park Tuesday night.
With the game tied at 3-3 in the eighth inning, Michale Loggins hit a hard shot that was misplayed by the Lufkin shortstop, allowing Eric Bordovsky to come around with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Lufkin put the potential go-ahead run on first base before bringing slugging third baseman Max Quick to the plate. However, a potential game-winning hit down the left field line landed about a foot foul and his liner to center was tracked down by Bordovsky to end the thrilling game.
Clayton Corley was a tough-luck losing pitcher for the Pack as he allowed a single unearned run on one hit and no walks in 2 1/3 innings.
College Park’s Chase Burchett was the winning pitcher as he pitched three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and three walks to go along with two hit batters.
That backed up a strong starting effort from Luke Trahan, who worked the first five innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits and four walks while striking out seven.
That was enough to hang with Lufkin starting pitcher Dillon McDuffie, who also worked five innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
After Corley worked the next 2 1/3 innings, Dylan Murphy got the final two outs, striking out one batter.
The Panthers, which had won five of seven games at home entering Tuesday night’s contest, struck early as Jonathan Dewberry drew a leadoff walk and came around to score on a Murphy RBI single for a 1-0 advantage.
College Park broke through for a pair of runs to take the lead in the third inning as Travis Washburn delivered an RBI triple to right center and Isaac Rivera hit an RBI single down the third-base line for a 2-1 advantage.
Lufkin answered in the bottom of the inning with Tanner Green delivering a two-out RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2. However, Davis Powell was thrown out at the plate, keeping the game tied.
College Park gained the lead for the second time in the fourth inning as Jake Schill laid down a nice squeeze bunt to score Washburn. The Cavs tried to catch Lufkin sleeping when Zach Cantu, who started the play at second, took off for home, but he was easily gunned down by Alex Barnett at the plate, leaving them with a 3-2 lead.
The Panthers tied the game in the bottom of the inning with Dewberry delivering a clutch two-out RBI single that made it 3-3.
From there, Lufkin was able to avert disaster on two occasions. In the fifth inning, College Park loaded the bases with one out before
McDuffie induced a double play to get out of trouble.
In the sixth inning, College Park got a runner to third before Corley induced two grounders to third to escape trouble.
For the game, the Cavs left seven runners on base.
However, the biggest key of the night was College Park avoiding damage from the Panthers, who left 13 runners on base, including eight in scoring position.
Lufkin hitters were Dewberry and Murphy (2 singles, RBI), Green (single, RBI) and Charlie Henson and Quick (single).
Hitters for College Park (2-7-1, 1-0) were Washburn (triple, RBI), Rivera (single, RBI), Bordovsky, Loggins and Trahan (single) and Schill (RBI).
Lufkin (8-6, 0-1) will return to action on Friday night as it hosts Conroe at 6 p.m.