Josh Gibson and Wes Collins helped the O’Fallon baseball Panthers turn what looked to be a bad day into a very good one in a manner of few innings.
Gibson ripped a bases-clearing hit in the second and Collins doubled home a run in the fifth as the host Panthers overcame a three-run deficit to overtake Highland 10-3 on March 21 at Blazier Field.
The young Panthers overcame a slow start with eight hits against three Highland pitchers as they improved to 4-2.
“We’re pressing and we’re young and we’re like most teams around here — young and inexperienced. You lose 26 seniors and all your pitching and they’re trying to find an identity,” said first-year O’Fallon coach Joe Bauer. “They are finding their way and Josh and Wes are swinging the bat well right now.”
The Bulldogs started well enough, scoring three runs in the first inning, but starter Griffin Frahm struggled with location and was lifted after surrendering five runs in the first three innings. Highland also managed only four hits.
“We played as poorly as you can play and it ended up exactly like it should when you play this poorly,” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said. “We gave them four and five and sometimes six outs an inning and they’re a good team and they took advantage of it.”
Highland (1-1) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first when junior Ross Spies blasted a three-run homer over the center field fence.
O’Fallon got a run back in the bottom of the first on Kyle Becker’s sacrifice fly to left field, cutting the lead to 3-1.
In the second inning, Gibson ignited the Panthers bats, ripping a line drive single to left that cleared the bases for three runs after the left fielder misplayed it in the sun, giving OTHS a 4-3 lead. Gibson had a strong day offensively with two hits, two runs scored, and two RBIs.
“I try to do everything I can to put our team in a good situation to win and I was just in the right situation at the right time,” said Gibson.
Tyler Stanton moved the margin to 5-3 with an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth. That chased Frahm as he gave way to Tyler Werner in relief.
O’Fallon broke the game wide open in the fifth as Collins doubled home Logan Lowery, who led off with a walk and scored from second with one out. Collins was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Stanton singled home another run and then Drew Tebbe picked up an RBI on a fielders choice, making it 8-3.
“It took time for us to get comfortable … I think that’s something we need to work on coming out of the gate a little faster, but as the season goes along I think we’ll get better at that,” Gibson said.
The Panthers plated their final two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Panther hurlers Ben Koenig and Lowery were steady in relief as they combined for six shutout innings with Koening earning the victory.
“Those kids compete and they battled and they are getting their feet underneath them,” Bauer said.
NEXT UP FOR O’FALLON, HIGHLAND
O’Fallon is scheduled to host Lincolnshire Stevenson for a doubleheader March 25.
Highland, meanwhile, hopes to regroup in its next scheduled game March 25 against visiting Breese Central.
“Hopefully, we can learn from defeat. It’s supposed to be a great teacher,” Hawkins said.