No. 23 LaGrange rallied to beat Greensboro 7-5 on Sunday at Cleaveland Field to capture its record third straight USA South Tournament championship. The Panthers (30-9) became the first team to accomplish the feat in the 24-year history of the tournament. It is the first time in the program's history to post four straight 30 win seasons.
"I couldn't be more proud to do this at home," Coach David Kelton said. "It was important to come from behind. We took a shot early in the game that could have dictated the rest of the game. We just kept pecking away. Judd (Moore) was huge and Gibson (Bittner) was unbelievable."
Moore, a sophomore outfielder, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. He batted .529 (9-for-17) with a double and seven RBIs. Moore drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
Greensboro (22-18) had won four straight in the tournament after losing 9-7 to LC in the opening game of the tournament. The Pride rocked Bittner and the Panthers with a four-run third inning to go up 4-0.
The Panthers started their comeback in the fourth inning. Moore singled with two outs and moved up to second on an errant pickoff throw, one of seven Greensboro errors. Jack Layrisson followed with a single to center, driving in Moore to make it 4-1.
In the fifth, LC needed only one hit and took advantage of three errors to tie the game. McKinley Erves walked with two outs to keep the inning going. He stole second, went to third on an error on the play and scored on E.J. Churchich's infield hit. The Pride committed two errors on Trey Pearce's grounder as Churchich scored and Joe Ruth came home also to tie the game.
Ruth led off the seventh with a single and moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Moore drove in Ruth with a line drive to left to give the Panthers their first lead. 5-4. Layrisson followed with a double down the right field line to plate Moore and make it 6-4. The Panthers picked up an insurance run in the eighth. Erves had a single and later scored on Ruth's sacrifice fly that upped LC's lead to 7-4.
Bittner (8-3) settled down after getting the final two outs of the third inning. He retired 17 in a row before allowing a lead-off double in the ninth. Bittner was relieved with one out after an RBI single got the Pride within two, 7-5. Spencer Douches came on and got the final two outs for his third save, setting off an infield celebration.
The Panthers will play in a regional at a location and date to be announced.