After four and 15 minutes of baseball, the Dr. Phillip Panthers prevailed in a war of attrition, topping the host Lake Brantley Patriots 7-2 in 12 innings May 8 to advance to FHSAA Class 9A Region 1 Semifinals.
“That’s what it’s about — to win the war of attrition,” Dr. Phillips head coach Mike Bradley said. “Competing every single pitch and believing in one another. We did that tonight and we came out on top. We tried to give it away there a little bit, but the guys hung in there and made some big time performances when we needed them to.”
The Panthers (16-13) jumped out to an early lead in the second inning, when an RBI-single from Sebastian Oetterer plated Jacob Hartman. James Hurst would follow suit with an RBI-single of his own that scored C.J. Cantwell to extend Dr. Phillips lead to 2-0 after the top of the second inning.
After being held scoreless through four innings, Lake Brantley (18-10) got on the board when an error with two outs allowed them to trim the lead to one. On the very next play, another error led to a tied ballgame and persuaded Bradley to take Cort Roedig out of the game, despite Roedig never allowing a hit or an earned run. Reliever Logan Bryan did his job and got out of the jam with a pop-out to August Haymaker to keep the tied game intact.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, with runners for Lake Brantley on first and second with two outs, Haymaker went to flip a ground ball to Raymond Negron at second base. After Negron dropped the flip, he recovered and threw out what would have been the game-winning run at home.
Following multiple innings where both teams had chances to win the game, Dr. Phillips had its best opportunity to take the lead in the 12th inning with bases-loaded and one out for Will Sullivan. After Sullivan grounded into a fielder's choice that prevented the go-ahead run from scoring, Hartman came up to bat. He would consequently be hit by the pitch and gave the Panthers their first lead of the game since the fifth inning.
Cantwell and Oetterer would both reach base on infield singles, respectively, extending Dr. Phillips' lead to 5-2. Hurst would follow that up with a ground ball to the third baseman, who made an errant throw that allowed two runs to score, capping off the top of the 12th inning for Dr. Phillips.
Mitchell Stockwell would strand runners on first and second in the bottom of the 12th to secure the win and advance the Panthers to the regional semifinals.
Cantwell went 3-5 for the Panthers, driving in one run and scoring twice. Oetterer went 2-5 and drove in two runs.
Roedig, Bryan and Stockwell combined to strike out 12 batters for Dr. Phillips and allowed just five hits over the course of 12 innings. Stockwell earned the win, pitching five innings and striking out four.
Overall, the pitching staff didn’t allow a hit until there was one out in the ninth inning.
“Our pitchers have been battling all year long,” said Bradley. "What we thought wasn’t going to be one of the strongest suits of our game has been right there. They’ve been battling and it doesn’t matter who we put on the mound, each and every guy that we call on takes the ball — wants the ball — and they compete and they give us a chance to win. I couldn’t be more proud of my ball club right now.”
With the win, Dr. Phillips will get a chance to avenge a district championship loss to the Boone Braves on May 15. The Panthers lost to the Braves on May 4, 8-7, in the Class 9A, District 3 Championship Game.
“It’s similar to this game — we just can’t play not to lose,” Bradley said. “We got up early on Boone last game game, then we got a little tentative there and we let them back in the game. ... We gotta play a little bit better defense at times and we gotta capitalize more at the plate. If we can do that then it gives us a chance.”