Panthers knock out 2 teams, fall short of state championship game

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

MURFREESBORO — The Bartlett Panthers arrived to Murfreesboro on May 19 for the Class 3A State Tournament with a set plan. But the ace of the Hardin Valley Hawks changed those by leading his team to a 2-0 win over the Panthers. Head Coach Josh Stewart’s Panthers woke up the next morning knowing they had to win out to survive. Bartlett made it another day in the state tournament, beating Hendersonville and Soddy Daisy.

“It’s good after coming out the first night and facing a real good arm in a good game,” Stewart said. “So, they battled today and got two wins.”

With their plans adjusted, the Panther coaching staff prepared to take on the Soddy Daisy Trojans sending ace Jon Bowlan to the mound of Oakland Baseball Field. Bowlan would only pitch one inning against the Trojans.

“Any time you can get off to a big start in a tournament is good,” Stewart said. “You can save your arms and pitch them later in the tournament.”

Five runs in the first and a four spot in the second allowed Stewart to sit his senior hurler and send the proven arm of Jeffrey Kohl into the contest for a few innings in the 12-3 victory.

The Panthers jumped ahead 1-0 when Andrew Miller stroked a single with the bags full. With the bases still loaded, Bartlett slugger Barrett Taylor approached the plate. Taylor delivered the big blow of the game with a grand slam home run.

“It was gigantic,” Stewart recalled. “Barrett walks up there in a 1-0 ballgame and bases loaded with one out. He hits a 1-0 fastball. He put a good swing on it.”

The ball traveled well over 370 feet beyond the leftfield wall. The Panthers continued their hot hitting piecing together four runs in the next inning to jump ahead 9-0. Bowlan had an RBI single in that stretch.

Both teams would go on to score three runs the rest of the game. But the season would come to an end for Soddy Daisy.

Meanwhile, the Panthers got another shot against the Hardin Valley Academy Hawks.

“We have to make sure they get rest, make sure they’re prepared when they come to the ballpark,” Stewart said, “make sure they have something on their stomachs. We have to make sure we have them in a good situation to make something good happen. It’s the little things.”

Hardin Valley did the little things to eliminate Bartlett and reach the state championship game.

Written by Thomas Sellers Jr., special to the Express.