By Marq Mitcham
OAK GROVE — Braden Hough and Reece Brooks played longball and Adam Tubbs pitched out of a bases-loaded no-outs jam in the sixth inning as Sterlington pocketed an 11-4 victory over Oak Grove on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Field.
In a game that was closer than the final score reflected, the Panthers carried a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
Three batters into the inning, Tubbs found himself in an ominous situation. Lane Warren took a pitch off the front shoulder, Reid Milligan shot a single through the crease between shortstop and third, and Braden Sullivan guided a perfectly-placed bunt down the third base line for a base hit to jam the basepaths with still nobody out.
Unfazed, the junior left-hander fanned the next three batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
Matters would only get worse for the Tigers in the seventh as the Panthers parlayed four walks (two intentional), a hit batsman, three errors and two hits into a seven-spot.
Starting at the top of the order, Brooks worked the count full before drawing the first walk of the game by either side. Brooks later sprinted to third on an errant pickoff attempt. With one away, Hough and Brock Risinger were issued intentional passes to load the bases.
Davis Johnson then scorched a two-run single to left, extending the Panthers' lead to 6-3.
Sterlington went on to add five more as Trey Rugg walked, Clay Benson reached on a two-base error, Harrison Womack took a pitch in the back, Brooks was safe on a two-out overthrow and Seaver Sheets laced an opposite-field, RBI single to left.
Warren doubled home Ramsey "Rambo" Morgan to wrap up the scoring in the bottom of the seventh.
In a matchup of tough left-handers, the Tigers grabbed a 2-0 edge in the second.
David Bruce led off with a base hit to center, was sacrificed to second by Chad Ashburn and completed the cycle when Morgan bounced a one-hooper off the center field wall for a two-bagger. Trey Allen followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.
Sterlington leveled in the fourth.
Hough sliced the deficit in half with one swing of the bat, leading off with a no-doubter over the left-center wall.
With one down, Johnson beat out an infield single and held at third on Rugg's double to center. Benson then squeezed Johnson across with the equalizer.
Bruce quickly restored the Tigers' lead, 3-2, with a solo blast over the left field wall.
Sterlington wasted no time flipping the lead.
Zach Jones opened the Panthers' fifth with a double to deep center and stole third when Brooks bluffed a bunt. Swinging away from there, Brooks gave the Panthers their first lead, 4-3, with a two-run bomb to left-center.
Tubbs retired the side in order in the home half of the fifth before executing the Houdini act in the sixth.
In the six-inning outing, Tubbs allowed three runs on seven hits, with 11 punchouts and zero walks before turning it over to Nick Whittington in the seventh.
Sullivan pitched admirably in defeat, giving up five runs on nine hits, while striking out three and walking two (one intentional) through 6.1 innings.
Sterlington out-hit the Tigers 11-8. Hough homered and singled, Sheets and Johnson supplied two singles apiece, Brooks went yard, Rugg and Jones banged doubles and Benson and Parker Coley contributed base knocks.
Bruce homered, doubled and scored two of the The Grove's four runs. Warren doubled and singled, Morgan doubled and Milligan, Sullivan and Allen singled.
DEFENSIVE GEMS: Sheets made the Panthers' defensive play of the game (and arguably the season) in the third. Ranging deep in the hole to his right, the sophomore shortstop planted his right foot and made the long throw to nip Warren at first base for the second out.
An inning later, second baseman Brooks gloved a ground ball to his far right, and whirled around and threw to Risinger at first base in time to get Sullivan for the leadoff out.
RECORDS: Sterlington (16-2, 5-game winning streak); Oak Grove (5-8).
NEXT: Neville at Sterlington, Monday, 6 p.m.; Oak Grove at Sterlington, Tuesday, 5 p.m.