Panthers wrap up Game 1 win over Maud

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

May 18, 2007 - GILMER - It took 48 hours and 20 minutes, but the North Hopkins Panthers persevered through a lightning delay and a rain postponement to finally close out Game 1 of their regional quarterfinal series.

Under beautiful blue skies on Thursday, the Panthers held onto the 7-3 lead they established over the Maud Cardinals on Tuesday before inclement weather delayed the final two innings of the contest.

NH senior reliever A.D. Ramirez worked around trouble the final two innings by striking out three batters to preserve the win for starter Bradley Ball, who threw the first five innings on Tuesday.

Ramirez took the mound with an inherited runner on first base, a leftover from Tuesday's game. But, the senior pitcher struck out the next two batters and then induced an infield grounder for the third out.

NH head coach Brian Bymaster said he trusts Ramirez with being able to handle the pressure in that situation.

"That's what I love about A.D. - he doesn't think about things, he just goes out and does it," Bymaster said. "He's around a 2.3 ERA, which is about the best on the team. He's had some arm problems this year, but when you need him to get on the mound and throw strikes, he's going to do it."

In the top of the seventh, Ramirez gave up a single to lead-off hitter Bradley McClain and a walk to J.T. Stanley, but then came back with a strikeout sandwiched around two grounders to close out the victory.

Game 2 of the Class A, Region III quarterfinal series is set for noon Saturday at Paris Junior College, with Game 3 to follow if necessary. North Hopkins (18-11) needs to win one of the Saturday games to advance to face either Lovelady or Groveton.

Bymaster expects Maud to put forth its best effort. In the first game, the Cardinals had six hits against Ball and Ramirez, but fanned nine times and committed three errors.

"You never know what's going to happen - this is a strange game," Bymaster explained. "They came out and battled today and put guys in scoring position. But, we played fundamental ball, threw strikes and made the plays, and usually that wins games."

The Panthers were led at the plate by Lorenzo Rivera and Dillon Mitchell, who each had two hits and scored once, Joe Smiddy had a single and scored once, and Jeremy Dixon reached all four times with three walks and a hit.

Notes: Thursday's two-inning conclusion to Game 1 took about 22 minutes to play. ... Maud's Bradley McClain pitched the final 3 1/3 innings in relief on Tuesday, then came back to throw the sixth inning on Thursday. He threw a total of 84 pitches.

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