The South Iron Panthers’ varsity baseball team has had a season to remember. Heading into their matchup up against Clearwater, the Panthers had a sterling 12-3 record on the year. Five of those games resulted in the Panthers scoring more than 10 runs with another two games resulting in nine runs scored. Thursday night would be another one of those nights as Panther bats came alive once again, seemingly from the first pitch.
South Iron would jump out to an early lead by scoring three runs in the top of the 1st inning. The Panthers would further that lead by scoring another four in the top of the 2nd, creating a cozy 7-0 cushion. Clearwater would answer meekly in the bottom of the inning with a single run. The 3rd inning would bring an early end to the game as South Iron’s bats cleared an absurd nine runs in the inning. Clearwater would not be able to respond in the bottom of the 3rd, and thus, a mercy rule and 16-1 final culminated in a dominant South Iron Victory.
Coach Don Wakefield did not take Clearwater lightly saying, “it’s always big to be able to get a win over Clearwater. They have such a great baseball tradition and not to mention are one of our biggest rivals. We came out from the first pitch and hit the ball well, our pitching was able to hold them in check, and our defense was solid like it has been all year”.
All but one Panthers players would record a hit on the day in what was a complete team effort. Leadoff hitter and starting pitcher Brock Wakefield set the tone incredibly well for his team. At the dish, Wakefield went 1-2 with two walks, three runs, three RBI, one stolen base and a home run to boot. On the rubber, Wakefield was equally as impressive giving up only two hits, one earned run, and striking out six over his three innings of work. Hitting second, Drenin Dinkins would go a perfect 4-4 while hitting two doubles, scoring two runs and driving in two as well. Clean up hitter Cody Hughes had two hits of his own, both going for extra bases while recording a double, triple, two runs and three RBI’s. Karl Slusher was also perfect at the plate going 3-3, and Harley Lewis added three runs scored to the stat sheet.
Players throughout the team had positive things to say about their season as a whole as well. Hughes believed the upperclassmen played a big part as South Iron had “five seniors with a lot of quality baseball experience”. Wakefield and Dinkins attribute the success to all the time the players put in. Dinkins saw this before the season even started saying, “We have put in a lot of time during this past offseason to be a good baseball team and we are seeing the results of the hard work we put in”. Wakefield was impressed with his teammate’s work ethic by saying, “We had a lot of guys who worked very hard to get better every day” and that the Panthers “had people staying after practice to put in extra time”.
Coach Wakefield was impressed with his team’s resiliency and hopes that the Panthers keep the momentum headed into next year. “We have a solid group of guys. We start six seniors and three juniors but we had one of our key seniors go down with an injury early in the season. After the injury we had two sophomores step up and played very good baseball. This allowed us to continue with a very successful season. We are hoping to continue our success into the spring season”.