LaGrange rode the pitching of Baley Coleman and Jacob Brown to take Game 1 of the USA South Tournament championship series from N.C. Wesleyan 4-1 on Friday night at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium.
The win moved the fourth-ranked Panthers (36-6) within one win of their fifth straight USA South Tournament championship. Game 2 is 2 p.m. Saturday. The if necessary third game would follow at 5:30 p.m.
Coleman (9-1) outdueled N.C. Wesleyan's Derrick Carter (8-3), the USA South Pitcher of the Year. Coleman pitched a season-high eight innings, scattering seven hits, the one run, walked one and struck out eight. He pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the third before the Bishops (28-16) touched him for a run in the sixth.
Carter pitched his fifth complete game of the season. In eight innings of work, he gave up the four runs, three of those earned. Carter walked five, struck out six, and threw 145 pitches.
The Panthers built a 3-0 lead with a run in each of the second, third, and fifth innings. David Smigelski doubled to left with one out in the second and came around to score on Jared Aldridge's single off the third base bag.
LC two-out runs in the third and fifth. The Panthers have 169 two-out runs this season. Jack Layrisson and Cael Chatham had back-to-back doubles to right center for a run in the third. Smigelski's second double of the game in the fifth, drove in Layrisson, who had singled earlier in the inning.
The Panthers added an insurance run in the eighth without a hit, benefitting from two Bishops' errors in the inning. Gabe Pallo reached on a one out error and moved up to second as Rhett Mixon walked. Pallo stole third and came home when the throw went into left field to make it 4-1.
After surrendering Drifton Padgett's two-out RBI single in the sixth, Coleman retired the last seven batters he faced. He ended his night with back-to-back strike outs in the eighth.
Brown came on in the ninth and slammed the door on the Bishops. The freshman, making his 20th appearance of the season, struck out the side for his third save of the season.
LaGrange had nine hits in the game, four for doubles. Layrisson, Pallo, and Smigelski each had two hits. McKinley Erves had his 13-game hitting streak end but set another season record. Erves got his 48th walk of the season in the first inning, breaking Stevie Cotrell's mark of 47 walks set in 2000. He has already broken the season record for runs scored and currently has scored 77 runs so far this season.