BASEBALL: Panthers get their groove back, score 11 runs

The Porterville Panthers make minimal errors against the Tulare Union Tribe and come away with 11 runs for their fifth win

PORTERVILLE – After two weeks of rest, four Porterville Panthers pitchers got some practice against the Tulare Union Tribe while the batters scored 11 runs for the win.

The Panthers pulled ahead in the first inning and kept the lead to beat the Tribe 11-4 in their game on March 8. The Panthers held the Tribe to just one run until the sixth inning, when the Tribe put three more runs on the board. But the Tribe were unable to catch up to the Panthers’ 11 runs and the game ended after the top of the seventh.

“They hit the ball well, ran the bases pretty good, overall I think they played pretty good,” Porterville head coach Pete Carganilla said. “We haven’t played in a week.”

Most teams would be at least a little bit rusty if they hadn’t played a game in two weeks, but not the Panthers. They scored three runs in the first inning against the Tribe as if they’d just been in a game situation two days before. It was routine play for the Panthers, who followed all of their coaches’ instructions and pulled off a mostly seamless win.

“That’s a really solid, fundamentally sound, well-coached team,” Tulare Union head coach DJ Bennett said. “You can’t make the mistakes that we made early and expect to compete with them.”

The Tribe had a couple of fielding errors in the first and second innings that cost them. With the Panthers loading up the bases, the Tribe could not afford to miss ground balls or drop pop flies and those errors put the Panthers up 7-1 heading into the third inning.

In the third inning, both teams brought in new pitchers. Ivan Arias came in as relief for the Panthers. But the change for the Tribe was crucial in slowing down the Panthers. Adam Sims was replaced by Cole Sappington. Sappington is left-handed, but the supposed disadvantage of a lefty pitcher against right-handed batters didn’t matter. Though he allowed hits, the Panthers didn’t score a single run in the third inning.

“We’ve only had one day of practice [this season] and it’s taken our kids a couple of weeks to get adjusted,” Bennett said. “That being said, I think we picked it up mentally and played better defense, threw better strikes and had better at bats overall.”

The Tribe scored three more runs when the Panthers brought in their third pitcher of the game. Carganilla explained that he made frequent pitching changes in order to give different pitchers practice in a game after time off. The Panthers also struggled with some fielding errors that cost them what should have been easy outs. The Tribe got the three runs in the sixth inning, but when Cole Machado came in to close for the Panthers, the Tribe were unable to score any points and the Panthers were declared the winners.

“They earned some runs,” Carganilla said. “We just have to stay tuned in, more locked in.”

The Panthers are still in the East Yosemite League along with Monache, but the four Visalia schools have been moved into the EYL. The Panthers have competed well so far in non-league games and tournaments, losing only to Independence and Highland from Bakersfield. They had no trouble scoring 18 points against both West and East Bakersfield.

“They’re definitely gonna be tougher,” Carganilla said. “It’s okay to play teams that are better than we are. Maybe we’ll open some eyes and if not it’ll be a great experience playing the Visalia teams.”

However, they’ll have to prepare to face Redwood for their first league game  after nearly two more weeks without games. The Panthers will face the pressure on March 21 at Rawhide Stadium.

While the Tribe were in the EYL last year, they have been moved to the West Yosemite League with the two other Tulare schools and will face Lemoore, Hanford and Dinuba on their league schedule this year. But the Tribe have a few more non-league games on their schedule before they face Lemoore in their first league game. On March 11, they’ll play CVC at home in the Mills-Vogt Classic tournament, which was rescheduled from Feb. 23 after it was rained out.

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