Jacksonville Daily Progress
The Van Vandals baseball hopes were put to rest in a one-game playoff, losing the do-or-die series against the Bullard Panthers, in Class 3A baseball action.
Bullard rode the arm of left-hander, Zach Eschberger and some clutch hitting by catcher Trevor Rumbelow, accounted for the 4-3, win on a misty and chilly Thursday night, at historic Driller Park.
The crafty Panther lefty, Eschberger, went the distance to claim the win. The sophomore earned the win striking out eight, walking one, and scattering five hits, and three runs in the win.
Bullard center fielder, Haden Bryant, gave the Panthers their first hit of the game to lead off the fourth inning. Bryant used his state-class speed to steal second.
Bryant had to leave the game however to regroup after being struck with a throw over attempt. The pinch-runner for Bullard was however erased on one pitch, as a tricky pick off to the shortstop cleared the bases momentarily.
Consecutive base hits by designated hitter, senior, Cody Goode and sophomore, third baseman, Conner Mebane led off the Panther fifth inning.
A sacrifice grounder by Weston Gray placed the runners up at third and second base respectively. Goode eventually scored the first run of the game, plating the score on a passed ball, and the 1-0, Panther lead. Bullard third baseman, Conner Mebane scored on the second passed ball of the inning.
Bullard catcher, Trevor Rumbelow came up with the hit of the game with two outs for Bullard, blasting a two-RBI single to plate J.P. Hendrix and Jacob Shelton and the commanding 4-0 lead.
Van looked to make a rally coming back.
Sophomore, Mason Neal ripped a two-out single in the bottom of the fifth stanza before a RBI-triple off the bat of Vandal sophomore, Matt Savia plated Neal with the first Vandal run if the game.
Van added two more runs in the last at-bat in the seventh inning.
Sophomore, Jacob Tobias reached base on Eschberger’s, second walk of the game. Mason Neal then blasted a RBI-triple to score Tobias, and cut the lead to 4-2. Neal eventually scored the third run when Matt Savis’s, reached on an error to keep the Vandals comeback alive.
Replacing Haden Bryant defensively in the line-up, Britt Thomas made a diving snag of a Christian Cole blast to the outfield to end the game, 4-3.
Christian Harris took the loss on the mound, working four and two-thirds innings. Harris, a Van senior, struck out two Panthers, walked five, surrendered six hits and was credited with all four runs scored. Jacob Wyrick came on in relief for Van in the sixth inning.
Wyrick struck out four Panthers, walked none, and gave up no hits in his 2.2 innings of relief.
The Panthers (22-6), will advance to play last year’s 3A state champion, Pleasant Grove, at a time and place to be determined.
The Vandals end the year with a 13-14-2 overall record.