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MAGNET COVE -- Malvern managed to get within striking distance in the top of the seventh inning, but Magnet Cove senior pitcher Ethan Zaunbrecher managed to get the Panthers out of a bind and stave off the Leopards for an 8-5 win Monday.

Malvern (4-3) saw its entire lineup go down in order in the first three innings before managing to get its offense going, but the Panthers (6-3) started things off strong with senior pitcher Justin McKim hitting a lead-off double followed by a single by junior Javin Shirley that put runners in the corners. With one out, senior J.T. Higdon was hit by Malvern sophomore pitcher Cole Carey to load the bases before sophomore Landon Stone hit a single to second base to send McKim home for the 1-0 lead.

The second inning saw the entire Magnet Cove lineup take a swing at the ball as the team picked up six runs to take a dominant 6-0 lead.

Panthers head coach Robert Webb said that managing to get runners around the diamond made all the difference.

"You've got to move people when you've got them on," he said, noting that last Tuesday's 11-1 loss to Des Arc was due to a lack of moving runners. "You've gotta do that. You've got to move them when they're on."

Malvern managed to get its first runner on the basepath in the top of the fourth as senior Parker Freer hit a single to short before senior catcher Brandon Scott hit a double to send the speedy Freer across the plate to make it 7-1.

Brennen Koller stepped up to start the fourth inning off for the Panthers, ending a slump for the junior as he put the ball over the right field fence and into the ditch that runs behind the field for a home run to give the Panthers an 8-1 lead.

"Koller got out of his slump, the kid who hit the home run," said Webb. "He ain't touched it in a while."

The score did not change again until the top of the seventh, after Shirley stepped to the mound in relief of McKim. Shirley struck out the first batter, beaning the second before sending the third back with a strikeout, but the junior pitcher struggled from that point, walking four and hitting one to give Malvern hope as three runners crossed the plate.

Shirley was pulled after facing his eighth batter, and senior Ethan Zaunbrecher stepped in to finish the game. On his second pitch, Zaunbrecher's curve cut too soon, hitting the batter. Malvern sophomore Braxton Allen found the ball on his first pitch, popping it up to senior Clay Spadoni who caught the ball to secure the win.

"Magnet Cove's good," said Malvern head coach Matthew Weigand. "They've got good ballplayers over there, a good ball team. They're well-coached. They're going to play hard.

"We've got to show up. Today was just not our day. We didn't show up."

McKim picked up the win for the Panthers with one run off three hits, three walks and one hit batsman while strriking out 12 in six full innings on the mound.

"Any time McKim is on the mound, we feel good," Webb said. "All we need is just a few. I know they've got a big conference game tomorrow, so pitching made a big difference where we were throwing our best, and they're best is going to go tomorrow."

Shirley gave up four runs off four walks and two hit batters with two strikeouts in 2/3 of an inning. Zaunbrecher picked up the save.

"He is going to throw strikes," Webb said of Zaunbrecher. "He ain't going to overpower you. We hit the kid on the curveball. He really sets people up well with his curveball, and we were OK. We set our best defense with him out there.

"Really, it takes the pressure off Javin or Justin, you know, as far as just having to focus on pitching. He is a strike thrower. He's 3-0, I think, and that's his first save right there."

Carey collected the loss for the Leopards with four earned and three unearned runs off eight hits and one hit batter while striking out one in two innings. Sophomore Malaki Asher gave up one run off six hits and one walk in three innings on the mound, and sophomore Jacobe Hart gave up one walk while striking out one in his one inning on the hill.

"Every pitcher that pitched tonight were sophomores," said Weigand. "They're young. The guy who started didn't even play as a freshman. He sat out a year last year, so you throw three sophomores out there. I was happy. They threw strikes; we've got to play defense behind them."

Five Panthers -- McKim, Shirley, Koller, Spadoni and sophomore Lucas Smeltzer -- went 2-for-4 at the plate. Koller had two runs with two RBI, Shirley had one run with two RBI and McKim and Spadoni both had one run. Junior Luke Upton went 2-for-3, and sophomore Landon Stone and junior J.R. Tolleson both went 1-for-3 with a run each, Stone adding three RBI.

Scott led the Leopards at the plate, going 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI.

"He's a heck of a ballplayer," Weigand said. "He's a senior. We know what we're going to get out of Brandon."

Freer went 1-for-2 with two runs scored, and senior Micah Holyfield was 0-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Senior Darion Weaver, junior Christian Warren and Hart each collected one RBI.

The Panthers will host Fountain Lake on Thursday before traveling to Dierks on Friday. The Leopards hosted Arkadelphia Tuesday, and they will host De Queen Friday.

Sports on 03/13/2019

Print Headline: Panthers hold off Leopards for win

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