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Panther pitcher stymies Wildcats
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While Kevin Matthews spent three full innings before finding his control on Saturday against Liberty County, his teammates never did find their bats. The Wildcats suffered a 5-1 region setback because of it.
It was just the Wildcats’ first region loss, but they have yet to face the strength of the region.
Richmond Hill fell to 7-5, 2-1 Liberty while the Panthers improved their record to 5-6, 3-2.
One of Liberty County’s recent region losses was a blowout at the hands of West Laurens. West Laurens was in turn blown out by Thomson. Because of early rain outs Richmond Hill has faced neither, but Coach Curry knows full well what the result will be if they do not rebound from Saturday.
“You can’t beat many people scoring just one run. We have to have more production out of the lineup to compete in the upcoming region games,” Curry said. While he was also disappointed in his starters’ lack of control to start the game, clearly the offense was the biggest let down.
Richmond Hill managed just five hits but more discouraging was the eleven strikeouts. Much of that had to do with Panther pitcher Joe Watkins, who stymied the Wildcats in a complete game effort by staying ahead in the count and walking only one batter. It probably did not help that the Wildcats’ previous game on Thursday was a study in contrast.
Groves came to town and the Wildcats went wild in a 26-2 three inning game where they pounded the overmatched Rebels with 15 hits, including the season’s first home run – a three run shot by back up catcher Andrew James. The outburst against a weaker opponent couldn’t have helped them prepare for Liberty’s Watkins, who changed speeds well and stayed out of the middle of the strike zone the entire night.
Richmond Hill’s one run came in the third inning when Watkins’ made one of his few mistakes by allowing lead off batter Kevin Davis on board by hitting him with a pitch then giving up a double off the bat of Cody Crow. Davis came home a batter later when Cody Rushing’s hard ground ball was muffed by the Panther shortstop.
The Wildcats had one other opportunity in the sixth inning when Conner Mitchell led off with a single but was doubled off on his steal attempt when Trent O’Brien’s bunt attempt was popped up to third base – the kind of help Watkins really didn’t need.
While Matthews had issues through the first three innings - back to back hit by pitch batters to lead off the game - both scored. Then in the third three walks and another hit by pitch, this time three of them scored. Aside from that, he gave up only four hits and struck out five batters. He pitched a perfect fourth, but Curry had seen enough and went to the bullpen.
Billy Kilmer came in and pitched a scoreless last three innings getting out of a couple of jams himself, including stranding two lead-off hits in the seventh inning. Kilmer added three strikeouts while giving up three hits in relief
Richmond Hill will travel to Washington County on Friday, 6 p.m. start, and will be at Thomson the following day for a 1 p.m. start.
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