BY MICHAEL HELD
LA GRANGE–The North Johnston baseball team wanted to make some noise during this postseason and the Panthers did not go off quietly in the night last week.
After blanking Reidsville, 5-0, in the opening round of the state 2A playoffs, the Panthers traveled to La Grange to try and upset the Eastern Carolina Conference champions North Lenoir but in the end, they came up just short in a bitter 5-4 defeat in the second round of the NCHSAA 2A playoffs.
The Panthers twice held two-run leads only to see the Hawks come back and tie the game at 2-2 and then 4-4. Then, in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Hawks took the lead for good when Aaron Jarman drew a leadoff walk and then advanced to third base thanks to a sacrifice bunt and a groundout to second base. Then North Johnston committed its third error in four innings on a groundball allowing Jarman to score the go-ahead run.
“What do you do? That’s been one of our stumbling blocks,” said North Johnston coach Brian Ford. “I told the kids at the beginning of the game, in a 50-50 ball game when either team can win, it’s going to come down to the team that makes the most errors and it was true again tonight. It got us.”
In the top of the seventh inning, senior leader Trey Whitley, who earlier in the contest called a players’ only meeting in the dugout to rally the troops, stepped to the plate.
Whitley homered in the fifth inning to give the Panthers the 4-2 lead at the time and it looked as though he would come through again in the seventh and tie the game when he launched another ball off of North Lenoir pitcher Peyton Howard.
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