Panthers working on a win streak

Rappahannock County’s varsity baseball team has already celebrated three consecutive victories in the early part of its season.

After the previous week’s win over Fredericksburg Christian School, the Panthers posted an exciting 11-1 win at home against Highland March 24. “We won in five innings with Evan Espinola and Taylor Yowell pitching eight strikeouts and allowing only one hit,” said coach Donald O’Meara. “With 14 hits, scoring 11 runs, our highlight players were John Mills two-for-four, Chris Garcia, two-for-three, and Brandon Walker, one-for-three with a triple and two RBIs. Matt Fletcher, Espinola, Nick Carter, Yowell and Cody Casey all added two hits as well. Carter stole home, and we ended the game with a triple play!”

The Panther athletes also had their perspectives to offer. “We won because we played as a team,” said junior infielder Mills. “Our pitchers threw to let the defense play the ball. Evan turned that triple play: runners on first and second, no outs, top of the fifth . . . he caught a line-drive up the middle, tagged second and threw to first. Our hitting was good, too. David Williams hit the right field fence — only two feet from a home run.”

Senior pitcher/infielder Garcia echoed his teammate: “Best thing about our team today is the fact that everybody wants to be there and try hard. We still commit a few mental errors on defense, but when it comes to physically making the plays, we are good at that.” Garcia’s moment came when he stepped up to bat in the second inning as the lead-off batter. “It was just that pitch. You can tell as soon as it leaves the bat. It looked like it was gone. I started doing my home run trot to first, then I heard someone yell, ‘Run!’ So I started running. It hit the bottom of the fence in left field for a double.”

The team proved its mettle again with a 5-0 win on March 25 in a home game against Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy.
Coach O’Meara described his Panthers as “a very solid team defensively.” Sophomore Brandon Walker “threw all seven innings, striking out seven batters, and holding SVCA to four hits with no runs.” Evan Espinola “turned two double plays and made some excellent catches. Taylor Yowell and Matt Fletcher were awesome defensively. Fletcher threw out two runners on three attempts.

“On offense,” O’Meara said, “we scored five runs on eight hits. John Mills went two for two with two stolen bases, Williams was two-for-three, while Brandon Walker, Taylor Yowell, Nick Carter and Cody Casey each added a hit. Carter stole three bases; Yowell stole two.” As a celebration of his birthday, “Casey stole one base and attempted to steal home.”

Maintaining a winning momentum is O’Meara’s challenge. “We have now won three in a row and are looking good as a team,” he said, “and we have big challenges ahead. I am very proud of the efforts of these young men. They are working hard, jelling together and starting the process of getting a baseball team back to its winning ways. We still have a lot of work to do, but the process has begun.”

The varsity Panthers play their next game at home, 7 p.m. April 6 against George Mason High School.