LaGrange capped a perfect run through the 2018 USA South Baseball Tournament with a 12-7 win over N.C. Wesleyan to take its second straight tournament title Saturday at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium. The Panthers improved to 26-15 on the year and are 19-5 over the last 24 games.
LC went 4-0 in the tournament for the second straight year also. The Panthers opened with a 2-1 win over third-seeded Ferrum, then got a walk-off 5-4 10-inning victory over second-seeded Piedmont. LC defeated N.C. Wesleyan 12-3 to reach the championship game.
Saturday, the Panthers banged out 17 hits against eight Bishop pitchers. James Poropatic was a perfect 5-for-5 with a double and four RBIs. Lead-off hitter Rhett Mixon had three hits and scored three times.
LC jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning. The Bishops (22-23) needed only one hit and took advantage of two errors to score four runs in the top of the second. Poropatic and Jack Layrisson had back-to-back run scoring singles in the bottom of the inning to give the lead back to the Panthers, 5-4.
Poropatic had a two-run double as part of a four-run fourth inning as LC increased its lead to 9-4. The Panthers tacked on two more runs in the sixth. Austin Jones had a RBI single and Jackson Patrick's sacrifice fly scored the second run in the inning.
The Bishops loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh off reliever Zach English. Caleb Narron cleared the bases with a double to to left center field gap, but was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple. The Panthers picked up an insurance run in the eighth as Dawson Weaver's sacrifice fly brought home McKinley Erves to up the lead to 12-7.
English (4-0) pitched five innings in relief of starter Austin Fain to get the win. English gave up the three runs on six hits and struck out three. Gibson Bittner threw two scoreless innings to close out the championship. Bittner did not allow a run in 10 innings of work over three games in the tournament, while picking up a win and a save.
Layrisson was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. The freshman first baseman batted .471 with two doubles, a triple, and three RBIs. Bittner, Weaver, and Jacob Gassert joined Layrisson on the All-Tournament team.