It might have been pushed back a day, but the Palmyra baseball team got its season underway with a win Saturday as the Panthers hosted Macon in their season opener and beat the Tigers 3-2.
“It means a lot for a lot of reasons,” Palmyra coack Mark Loman said. “There is never a time in sports where you earn your right to win a game. We preach working hard all you can, but the community really worked hard to get the field ready and I really wanted to thank them for helping. ... You want to get that win, especially after all that hard work. It is always nice to get that taste of victory in your mouth early.”
The finish was a little closer than Palmyra might have liked though. With the Panthers leading 3-2 heading into the top of the seventh, Macon quickly loaded the bases no outs. But Panthers’ closer Holden Hudson settled down and worked his way out of the jam to escape the inning unscathed while picking up the save.
“We were fortunate in the seventh inning,” Palmyra coach Mark Loman said. “We got out of the inning without any damage. We were very fortunate to not give up at least a run, but at the same time we also made some quality pitches.”
After loading the bases, Hudson struck out Macon’s third and fourth place hitters to get the first two outs of the seventh. The third out came on a ball hit to Trevor Meny, Palmyra’s third baseman. Meny knocked the ball down and then made the unassisted play at third to end the game.
“The game ended with (Macon’s) five-hole hitter, a left-handed hitter, hit the ball very sharply to Trevor Meny at third,” Loman said. “Meny dove, knocked the ball down and dove to the base at third to get the force out and end the game.”
Palmyra took the lead in the third inning.
With one out, Hudson singled and moved to second on a passed ball. Seth Brown and Brock Butler both drew walks to load the bases.
With Layton Wilson at the plate, Macon tried to turn a double play to get out of the inning, but Wilson beat out the throw while allowing Hudson to score the game’s first run.
“With one out, our fifth place hitter put the ball in play to the right side,” Loman said. “The first baseman elected to try and go with the double play up the middle. It was a fielder’s choice and scored a run.”
Now with two outs, Josh Hultz came to the plate with runners on the corners. During Hultz’s at bat, Wilson stole second to give the Panthers two runners in scoring position. Hultz then drilled a pitch for a single that allowed both Butler and Wilson to score.
Hultz finished the day 1-for-1 at the plate with 2 RBIs, 2 walks, and 2 stolen bases.
Palmyra managed just three hits in the game and two of them came in the three-run third inning. The Panthers’ other hit during the game came from Alex Bross.
“We had a lot of quality at bats,” Loman said. “We didn’t hit the ball extremely well, but being the first time we were outside and it was cold, I wasn’t disappointed. I am not worried about our offense. I think we are going to put together a solid lineup offensively.”
Working on a strict pitch count, senior Will Funkenbush got the opening day start for Palmyra and picked up the win. Funkenbush (1-0) allowed just one hit over three scoreless innings of work. He struck out three and walked three.
Hultz took over for Funkenbush in the fourth and allowed a pair of hits and two runs over the next three innings. Both runs were unearned as they scored as the result of an error. Hultz walked none and struck out two.
Macon pounded out six total hits and scored twice in the fifth inning, but that was all the Tigers could manage. The game’s only extra base hit was a two-out, two-run double from the Tigers’ fourth place hitter in the fifth inning following a Palmyra error.
With the win, Palmyra opens the season a 1-0 while Macon starts its season 0-1.