SPRINGFIELD — For the second straight season and third time in the past five years, Tri-County North’s baseball team reached the Division IV regional semifinals.
But getting past the semifinal game has proven to be tough for the Panthers in each of those outings, including a heartbreaking, 5-4, loss to defending state champion Newark Catholic on Friday, May 26, at Carlton Davidson Stadium.
The game was originally slated for Thursday, but was rained out.
In their two previous regional appearances, North fell to Convoy Crestview 3-2 in 2013 and 2-1, in 8-innings, to Triad last season.
North fell behind 4-0 after one inning and trailed 5-0 after two, had the tying run on third base in the final inning, but couldn’t push the runner across the plate.
With the loss North, which won the Cross County Conference, sectional and districts titles this season, ends the season 19-11.
Newark Catholic took the lead without the benefit of a hit in the first inning. The Green Wave took advantage of the Panthers inability to throw strikes.
After North failed to score in the top of the first, Derek Hawk led off the inning for Newark Catholic and was hit by a pitch. Jody Mummey followed with a four-pitch walk. Tyler York, who was down 0-2 in the count, was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Tanner Lake followed and was also hit by a pitch to give the Green Wave a 1-0 lead. After a North pitching change, Noah Fodor walked to make it 2-0. The next batter struck out, but wild pitch allowed the third run of the inning to score. The next batter grounded out to second to score the fourth run of the inning.
The Green Wave added on run in the second. Hawk and Mummey had back-to-back one out singles and Hawk eventually scored on a wild pitch for a 5-0 lead.
North started its comeback in the top of the third. The Panthers began the inning with four straight hits. Casey Whipp opened the inning with a single to left center. Zach Edgin followed with a single to left. Liam Downing beat out an infield hit to load the bases for Tanner Booth, who doubled to left center to score all three runner and cut the Green Wave lead to 5-3.
The score remained until the top of the seventh before the Panthers threatened again.
Edgin singled to begin the inning. After a pop out to the short stop, Booth followed with a double to left field to score Edgin to make it 5-4 and keep the Panthers hopes alive. A ground out moved Booth to third, where he stayed as the game ended on a pop out to short.
For the game, North outhit the Green Wave 9-5.
Booth finished game going 2-for-3 with four RBIs. Edgin was 3-for-4 and scored a pair of runs.
Chandler Sproles pitched six innings in relief, allowing an unearned run on five hits. Booth took the loss on the mound, his first of the season.
North will lose four seniors, Edgin, Booth, Bo Hendrickson and Bailey Lairson to graduation.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twtter @emowen_RH