Lady Panthers roar back at Manassas Park

After a long bus trip to East Hardy, West Virginia, on April 14, the Lady Panthers fell to the Cougars, 7-4. The team followed that disappointment with a 10-0 loss to Strasburg on the Panthers’ home field April 16 and ended the play week with a huge, 21-5 victory over Manassas Park.

At East Hardy, “we jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead,” coach Jamie Harris said. “It was Dodson’s bunt and then her score on Lauren Settle’s double.” From there, a bad third inning doomed the defense who gave up six runs.

Rapp attempted to rally in the seventh. Several of the Panthers showed their determination. Amy Cooper had a single, as did Brittani Dodson, Natalie Tupper and Hanna Kopjanski. Lauren Settle added momentum when she smacked a triple. Offensively, Dodson led with her skills on first and third bases, and Settle showed her prowess at second and third as well. Allie Dore finished the game with seven outfield put-outs.

Coach Harris complimented his team. “We played much better this time against East Hardy [the first game lost 12-1, with only one hit]. We still have to finish off innings instead of giving up the big inning. That’s what dooms us.”

After the loss against Strasburg, Natalie Tupper said: “It was a fluke. Just a bad game.”

Tupper’s teammate, Lauren Settle, gave her perspective on where the game collapsed. “We held them to 0-0 until the top of the fifth inning – then they got a run. In the sixth inning, with two outs, they scored six unearned runs against us.”

Amy Cooper led the Lady Panthers’ offense with two hits, but the team made seven errors. In a nearly perfect echo of the stats, Tupper suggested, “We have to have less errors, and we need to hit the ball.”

Both Tupper and Settle agreed, “It was a disappointing loss, but we have a lot of potential.” The potential comment came with a promise from Settle, “We’re going to kill Manassas Park!”

Rappahannock 21, Manassas Park 5

Prophetic or not, Settle definitely hit a verbal home run with her proclamation. The Panther ladies “killed” Manassas Park at the Cougars’ home field Tuesday night.

The Panthers lunged out with a a 9-1 first-inning lead. Natalie Tupper began by cracking a double; then she scored on a Lauren Settle triple. “And from there it was hit contest,” Harris bragged, “as 13 Panther batters went to bat.” Those bats picked up two runs in the second, five in the fourth and five in the fifth.

Offensively, Lauren Settle posted two singles, three runs, seven RBIs and two stolen bases, while Peyton Bailey earned three singles and a double to lead the Panther attack. Tupper had three hits; Amy Cooper two hits; Lindy Paul, Caitlin Miller, Brittani Dodson and Allie Dore all finished with two hits apiece. Hanna Kopjanski and Skylar Owens finished with a hit each. Harris was proud to report, “Rapp pounded out 22 hits off the Cougar pitcher.”

Defensively, birthday girl Natalie Tupper picked up her fifth win of the season with a six-strikeout performance and seven-hit outing. Allie Dore made a nice catch to hit her cutoff, Lauren Settle, who fired home to Hanna Kopjanksi to nail a runner at the plate.

The Lady Panthers are now 5-7 overall and 2-2 in the Bull Run District. Up next is a huge game at Clarke County on Tuesday (April 27).

Panthers baseball loses three in a row

Panther Baseball boys had a disappointing week on the field with three consecutive losses. Last Wednesday the team traveled to Baker, West Virginia, only to succumb to the Cougars, 15-3. Friday (April 16) brought them home to meet the Strasburg Rams in a 16-0 loss. Finally, Tuesday night, at Manassas Park, Rapp suffered a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Cougars.

After a long bus ride to East Hardy High School, the Panthers jumped out in an energetic start. Coach Donald O’Meara recapped the momentum: “The energy was high and then we just fell apart.”

Junior John Mills was the catalyst for enthusiasm as he opened with a base hit. Senior Chris Garcia followed Mills with a perfect sac bunt to move his teammate to second. Evan Espinola fueled the fire with his RBI double. “We were off to a great start!” O’Meara said. “Matt Fletcher got to first base, and Taylor Yowell laced a two-RBI triple to left field.”

The momentum died when East Hardy Cougars answered the Panthers with some hits and several walks to score nine in the bottom of the first inning. “This was our worst inning of the season,” O’Meara said.

The coach ran two tough practices to ready his men for the home Strasburg showdown April 16. The team worked hard and held its head high as it prepared to meet a long-time rival.

In the tough 16-0 loss, there were several factors that O’Meara labeled as deadly. “We had trouble finding the strike zone.” Seniors Nick Carter and Evan Espinola were the only two hits of the game. Even with Taylor Yowell and Espinola spending time on the mound, Strasburg was able to prevail.

“Some untimely errors, followed by some good hits caused us to fall way behind,” O’Meara said. The Rams “just made some great plays plus all the routine ones as well.”

Finally, the recent losing streak closed with the Panthers traveling to face the Cougars of Manassas Park.

Even though Rapp lost 5-0, Coach said, “This was our best district outing to date. We hit the ball hard all game – we just hit the ball right to them.”

Senior Chris Garcia started on the mound. He pitched four innings and gave up three runs. Taylor Yowell, another Panther senior, threw two innings and gave up two runs. O’Meara complimented Nick Carter on his defense: “He did a great job in the outfield, tracking some well-hit balls and making some great catches.”

Game stats show Evan Espinola, Cody Casey, Garcia and Brandon Walker each went one for three. Rapp smacked four hits but could not get them in for a score. “We only allowed six,” O’Meara said, “but a few free bases on miscues allowed those five runs.”

Panthers did knock errors down to five for the game, motivating O’Meara to say it was “a much-improved effort all around. Great job, boys!”

The Panthers host Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy tonight (April 22).

― Melissa Delcour