No. 23 LaGrange got a strong pitching performance from senior Austin Fain in blanking N.C. Wesleyan 8-0 in the USA South Tournament on Saturday at Cleavleand Field in Williamson Stadium. The win puts the Panthers (29-9) into the championship game for the third straight year. LC will play Sunday at 12 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.
Fain (6-0), the USA South Pitcher of the Year, scattered five hits over seven innings in lowering his ERA to 1.48. He walked two and struck out a career-high 10. Fain has a streak of 14 scoreless innings and in his last five starts has allowed one run in 29-1/3 innings. Coston Anderson struck out four in two innings to complete the shutout.
LC got all the runs Fain would need in the first inning. Cael Chatham was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He moved over to third on a pair of wild pitches and scored on McKinley Erves' sacrifice fly. With two outs, the Panthers loaded the bases on walks to E.J. Churchich and Trey Pearce and an infield single by Judd Moore. Jack Layrisson's hit up the middle plated Churchich and Pearce for a 3-0 lead.
The Panthers padded their lead with two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. Austin McDade's sacrifice bunt brought in Moore for the first run of the fifth. Rhett Hollon's opposite field double scored Layrisson to make it 5-0. In the sixth, Pearce drove in two with a bases-loaded single. Moore followed with an RBI single to increase the Panthers' lead to 8-0.
Moore led LC's 11-hit attack with three hits. In the tournament's three games, Moore is 7-for-13 with six RBIs.