Special to the Sun Herald
GAUTIER-- Pascagoula overcame a slow start to finish second in Region 8-5A. The Panthers (11-13) beat Gautier 5-2 for their sixth region win the last seven region games.
The Panthers will close the regular season Monday at Moss Point and Tuesday at home against East Central, with first pitch for both games scheduled at 7 p.m.
"I am very proud of our team for the way they finished the season," said Pascagoula coach Richie Tillman. "This team faced a lot of adversity. I'm very proud of what these guys have accomplished this year and I'm very pleased about where we are at right now."
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Junior Matt Inlow was never worried about the Panthers missing the playoffs, even when Pascagoula's record stood at 3-13.
"We fought our way through the adversity," Inlow said. "We always had faith we'd come back. The team came out and worked and played as a team."
Pascagoula took advantage of Gautier defensive errors and Landyn Gordan's second-inning solo homerun to build a 4-0 lead over the Gators (7-11, 1-8).
With one out, Griffin Sublett walked. Sublett stole second and advanced to third when the Gators' shortstop misplayed Inlow's grounder. Austin Beech would then hit a hard liner directly to first. However, the firstbaseman dropped the liner and was not able to pick the ball up in time for an out, allowing Sublett to score the game's first run.
In the fourth, the Panthers scored twice. With one out, Alden Davis was hit by a pitch. He went to second when Reginald Hunter, who reached in front of him on an infield single, was thrown out attempting to steal third. Sublett struck out, but the third strike was dropped, allowing Sublett to make it to first, keep the inning alive, and move Davis to third. Davis then scored on a passed ball, which moved Sublett to second. Sublett scored on Inlow's solid single to left.
Inlow started the game and pitched to the minimum through four innings. Gautier starting pitcher Aaron Thomas reached on a drop third strike in the first inning, but was thrown out by Gordan trying to steal second. Quarshad Johnson singled to lead off the third, but Gordan threw him out as well as second to end a steal attempt.
In the fifth, however, Wesley McClain led off with a solid single to center. McClain stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball before scoring on Rogers' infield single to short.
Pascagoula would add an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning. Hunter walked, stole second, and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Inlow's two-out single to center.
Inlow would pitch to one batter in the sixth inning, giving up a single to Andrew Tanner to start the inning. Joe Gary entered to replace Inlow. Tanner stole second and third to get into scoring position before scoring on a wild pitch.
"Inlow always throws well for us," Tillman said, explaining why he took out the junior ace in the sixth inning. "We just wanted to see what Gary could do."
Inlow got the win, allowing two runs, one earned, off four hits and no walks. He struck out four batters in five-plus innings of work. He also led the Panthers at the plate with two singles and two RBIs. Gordon also had two hits, including his solo homerun, and an RBI.
Gary recorded his first save of the year, going two innings without giving up a run, although he did allow the inherited runner to score, and striking out three.
Thomas gave up five runs, but only two were earned, in taking the complete-game loss. He struck out eight, although two of his strikeout victims reached after a dropped third strike. He also doubled with one out in the sixth inning and reached third base, but was stranded at third by Gray.