Van Alstyne 13, Leonard 2 (5)

The Van Alstyne Panthers took full advantage of nine Leonard errors as they moved into a tie with Howe for second place in District 10-3A baseball with a 13-2, run-rule win at Forrest Moore Park on April 21.

Going into the contest, Panther head coach Jimmy Haynes was not sure what kind of game he would get out of his team just two days after an emotionally charged win over Highway 5 rival Howe.

“Most of our players spent the day working with the Special Olympics kids at the stadium, and a lot of them competed at the track meet on Thursday, so we didn’t have our normal routines,” Haynes said.

Normal or not, this game was over early as the Tigers committed four errors in the first inning to set the tone.

Van Alstyne sent 11 batters to the plate in the second inning, scoring five runs on just three hits, and more Leonard miscues.

Sophomore Chandler David opened the inning with a single followed by an infield hit by junior Scott Taylor. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and David scored on a miscue that allowed junior Zach Wright to reach.

Wright and Taylor both scored on a single to center field by senior Luke Hundt.

The Panthers loaded the bases and scored the fifth run of the frame when freshman Sam Tormos was hit by a pitch.

Junior Rhett Gallagher, after an outstanding inning of relief work in the Howe game, plus participation in the Thursday track meet, faced just nine Leonard batters in three innings on the bump.

A one-out walk was erased when junior catcher Tyler Neshyba threw the runner out at second on a steal attempt. Junior Chase Wilson made a good catch on that play as well.

After the Panthers collected five hits and scored six runs in the bottom of the third, the issue was pretty much settled.

Singles by Wright and Wilson got the ball rolling and junior Hunter Hutchison drove in a run with the third hit of the frame.

A double by Taylor drove in another run to get the Panthers near the run-rule numbers.

The big lead allowed coach Haynes to go to his bench and that’s always a plus.

“The score allowed us to put in a lot of guys who come out to practice hard every day but don’t get much playing time,” Haynes said. “Also, after 25 games, we are kinda banged up in spots and could use the rest.”

Senior Ryan Cole was one of those off-the-bench players and he responded with a hit in the fourth.

Junior Jordan Velekei worked around a lead off walk in the fifth, getting the final three outs to end the game.

“This was a big win for us, but our jobs are not finished,” Haynes said. “We still have to beat Commerce on Senior Night to stay tied with Howe and that second position in the league is what we are after.”

The Panthers have a unique pre-game routine for one of their final games and they used in prior to this game. It’s a big hit with the players, fans and parents of little league players who get to run out onto the field with varsity players during the introductions.

On April 25 the Panthers honored three senior players, Jimmy Head, Cole and Hundt, along with senior manager Savannah Chandler as the team hosted Commerce in the final regular season game.