After a disappointing game 1 loss to Van, North Lamar came into game 2 of the Area Championship need a win to extend the series to a tentatively-scheduled game 3 on Saturday. The sense of urgency was obvious on Friday night from the first pitch, and it seemed like a repeat of game 1 as Van rallied in the 7th but fell short with NL winning 3-2.
Kevin Dickey took the mound for NL to start the game and seemed to have control early. Dickey faced 7 batters through the first two innings with one walk in the first. In the second inning, Ty Jones reached base on a walk with one out. Jones was able to advance to second base on a wild pitch, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize and left him stranded.
In the top of the third, a Van runner reached base with two outs but did not score. In the bottom of the third, Panther bats begin to come alive. Sam Cowling was able to reach base with a nice single to center field with just one out. Cowling was able reach second base on an infield ground ball by Brayden Steed. Chad Box was able to reach first on a walk giving NL two base runners with two outs on the board. Trey Scudder came up to bat next and sent one deep to center, scoring Cowling and Box with a double. With Dickey at the plate, Scudder was thrown out trying to steal third. NL closed the inning with 2-0 lead.
The top of the fourth saw Dickey face three batters and get three outs. NL came to the plate looking to extend their lead. With one out, Jones reached base on a walk. Jake Wynn then stepped to the plate and hit a line drive base hit to right field, advancing Jones to third base. With Evan Niblett at bat, Wynn was picked off trying to steal second. Niblett answered by launching one deep to right, scoring Jones. Niblett was thrown out at third base sliding in as he tried to extend the hit to a triple. The Panthers headed to the fifth with a 3-0 lead.
The Vandals threatened to score in the fifth after Jacob Tobias reached base after being hit by a pitch. A missed throw to first allowed Tobias to reach second and a sacrifice fly put him on third with two outs. Brett Doring then reached first on a walk giving the Vandals two base runners. With NL nerves rising as the tying run came up to bat, Doring was called out on an odd attempt steal that looked more like a series of dance moves ending when he jumped out of the baseline to avoid the tag. In the bottom of the fifth, NL once again put runners in play as Cowling hit a double with only one out. However, Cowling was tagged out as Steed hit a grounder straight to second base. Steed was able to advance to second base on a wild pitch but was left there when Box struck out.
In the sixth inning, Van was able to get two runners on base with two outs. Again feeling the pressure, Dickey and the Panther defense was able to get the final out on a popup with no runs scored. Jones was able to beat out the throw on an infield grounder giving NL a base runner with two outs but the Panthers were unable to score.
Going into the seventh inning, the Panthers had what should have been a comfortable lead, however no one was comfortable after the Van rally witnessed the night before. After striking out the first batter, Dickey walked Jacob Tobias. Sean Beasley then hit a single but Tobias was out at second. Dickey walked his second batter of the inning, putting runners on first and second. Cooper Bledsoe hit a first pitch double that scored the two runners and cut the Panther lead to 3-2. The drama was high on both sides as Jax Tobias came up to bat. With a 1-2 count, Tobias grounded out giving NL the victory in game 2 and forcing a series-deciding game 3.
Game 3 was originally scheduled for Saturday at 2pm but as fans and the teams were leaving the ballpark, an announcement was made that it would be played thirty minutes later due to potential inclement weather on Saturday. NL was once again the home team and sent Evan Niblett to the mound.
After a scoreless first inning, Cole Newsom was able to reach base for Van on an infield hit in the second. After advancing to third, Newsom scored on a single by Jacob Tobias. Tyler Biard reached base on a walk for NL in the bottom of the inning but was still there when the inning ended. After two, Van held a slim 1-0 lead.
The third inning was scoreless as Bledsoe reached base for Van and Box singled on a line drive to center field for NL but neither were able to score.
In the fourth inning, Van extended their lead as Jacob Tobias had another RBI on the night. NL was able to load the bases with one out giving them a great scoring opportunity. Ty Jones reached based on a single, Jake Wynn reached on a bunt and Niblett was walked. However a strikeout and a groundout left NL behind 2-0 going into the fifth.
After another scoreless inning, Van would add two more runs to extend the lead to 4-0. Wynn would reach on a double for NL but the inning ended with the Panthers trailing 4-0.
Van moved the lead to 5-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. NL came to bat with their season on the line. Cowling reached first with a leadoff walk. Steed followed with a base hit that moved Cowling to third. Box would follow with an RBI single, scoring Cowling. With a 5-1 game and two runners on with no outs, it looked as if the Panther rally was on. Scudder drove in a run but hit into a double play. With Dickey reaching second on a double and Jones reaching first after getting hit by a pitch, Wynn stepped up and hit an RBI single that looked like much more. With the base runners moving to second and third, the throw to first was high and into the dugout.
Originally it looked like two runners scored but because of the dugout rule the runner for Jones was moved back to third base. Emotions were high as Niblett stepped up to the plate with the tying run on second base. A third pitch strike ended the game and the Panthers playoff run as Van took game 3 with a 5-3 score.