Baseball: Panthers turn back Averett 7-3 for fourth straight USA South win

Baseball: Panthers turn back Averett 7-3 for fourth straight USA South win

DANVILLE, Va. - LaGrange opened its USA South conference series against Averett with a 7-3 win Friday. The Panthers won their fourth straight conference game in improving to 6-4 in the USA South and 14-10 overall.

Senior Eric Morell (6-1) went six innings to get the win. He scattered six hits, allowed three runs but only two were earned. Junior Jonathan Fleckenstein pitched three scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first save of the season.

The Panthers backed Morell with 14 hits in the game, including six for extra bases. Blake Butcher had a two-run double and closed out the scoring with a solo home run in the ninth. Blane Swift had two doubles included in his three hits. Casey Bell also had three hits, including a double.

Bell had his double in the first inning with one out off Cougar starter T.J. Viracola (3-4). He moved over to third on a fly out, then scored on Chad Pigg's two-out single for a 1-0 lead.

The Panthers built a 6-0 lead with a run in the fourth, then two more in each of the fifth and sixth innings. Joe Pradat had an RBI double in the fourth. Butcher's double accounted for the runs in the fifth. In the sixth, Tavin Thompson walked and Cain Sauls was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in two runs.

The Cougars cut the Panthers' lead in half in the bottom of the sixth. They pushed across three runs on five hits and the help of a Panther error to make it 6-3.

Fleckenstein relieved Morell to start the seventh. He did not allow a hit in his three innings of work, surrendering just two walks to close out the win. Butcher hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season off reliever Cody Johnson in the ninth for the 7-3 final.

The two teams close out the series with a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 11:30 a.m.