By Amanda Perkins
The defending state champion Mountain Grove Panthers checked another item off their to-do list for the season Monday night, topping the Ava Bears 10-2 in a SCA Conference show-down.
“It was a good game,” said Panthers head coach Derwin McGownd. “It was good and close there in the beginning and we finally wore their pitcher down a little bit and were able to put some hits and runs together. The score doesn’t depict the game that was actually played here. They’re a good team. So we’ll take it and move on.”
The Bears loaded the bases in the first inning, but two strikeouts from the hand of starting pitcher Cade Coffman helped the Panthers out of the jam. Grove led off with three straight singles in the bottom half of the first frame, then Treye Collins and Logan Sheppard knocked in the two runs of the inning to put the host team into a 2-0 lead.
Ava’s Devin Elliott singled to lead off the third and Brandon Johnson followed with a walk. Nick Sterling drove them both in with his own single and the Bears tied the contest, but the Panthers shut down Ava’s momentum by turning a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Panthers took over scoring in the bottom of the fourth, shutting out the Bears from that point on. The Coffman brothers contributed to the inning with Cade smacking a double and Brock picking up an RBI. Cade also scored one of Mountain Grove’s two runs on a Treye Collins fly ball to left field.
The host team put six runs on the board in the sixth after eight of the nine batters reached in the inning. Cade Coffman singled twice, picked up an RBI, and scored a run and Connor McNew added a two RBI single.
“Mountain Grove just kicked our tails today,” said Ava coach Rex Sawyer. “They were sharper than us. We were not sharp in the field today like we usually are. Take nothing from Mtn. Grove, they did a super job. We had a chance there when we were down a couple of runs and I wasn’t going to bring in my other two pitchers because we have districts coming up, we aren’t going to show that kind of stuff. But we weren’t on top of our game today, and Mountain Grove was. They played good ball.”
The Panthers move to 9-3 on the season and take on Rogersville this week, while the Bears will also see the Wildcats, as well as the Liberty Eagles. Ava is now 10-4 on the season.
Ava 0 0 2 0 0 0
Mtn. Grove 2 0 0 2 0 6