Panthers edge Trojans to advance to Class 1A state title

Newberry will appear in its first state championship in 42 years
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 10:56 PM EDT
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FT. MYERS, Fla. (WCJB) - For not playing in the State Final Four since 1979, the Newberry Panthers baseball team didn’t show any signs of nerves or rust.

Senior pitcher Luke Ridley took the mound in his final start as a member of the Panthers and delivered an absolute gem in the biggest game of his team’s season.

Ridley struck out the first three Hamilton County batters he faced to breeze the first inning of the Class 1A State Semifinal.

He went on to record eight more strikeouts over 6 & 1/3 innings pitched, while only allowing 1 run. The senior was throwing a no-hitter through four innings but was broken up in the top of 5th with an rbi double.

At the plate, Newberry broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the 3rd. With the bases loaded and no outs, Makai Johnson hit a soft flare out to shallow center field that fell in for a hit. Jayden Holcomb trotted home from third base to put the Panthers ahead 1-0.

Newberry added two more runs in the frame thanks to Logan Carlisle’s SAC fly, and a bizarre play at home. With runners on second and third and one out, Kaleb Compton hit a dribbler back to the Trojans pitcher, he threw the ball home to tag out Caden Massey, but the catcher thought it was a force out and never tagged Massey, who stepped on home to add the third and final run of the inning to the blue and white’s total.

In the top of the 5th, Hamilton County fought their way back into the game.

With a runners on first and third, the Trojans had the runner at first attempt to steal second. In Compton’s hurry to throw the runner out, the ball skipped short of Johnson and went into center field. The Trojan’s finally ended the shutout and now had a man aboard at second.

Later in the at bat, Julian Garcia swatted Ridley’s pitch well out to left that got over Massey’s head and rolled all the way to the wall. The second run of the inning touched home and suddenly it was a one-run game.

In the top of the 7th, Panthers head coach Mike Spina pulled Ridley after he hit his pitch count for the game and brought in Mason Tomchak. Tomchak recorded the second out of the inning, but then hit the next batter to put a runner on with two outs.

The very next batter hit a weak single through the right side that allowed there to be runners at the corners. With the tying run 90 feet away, Tomchak settled in and got garcia swinging on a breaking ball to end the game.

Newberry fans and players cheered loudly in excitement as the team will now play Chipley in the State Championship game on Thursday.

Chipley run-ruled Holmes County 11-1 in five innings. Both Chipley and Newberry have only lost one game all season.

The Class 1A state title showdown goes down at 7 p.m. Thursday night

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