GARDNER — For the longest time on Saturday, it looked like the Gardner-South Wilmington baseball team was going to put the 1994 season behind them. That is, of course, the last time the Panthers won a regional championship.
Heading into the sixth inning of the GSW Class 1A Baseball Regional title game against Grant Park, the locals and Dragons were tied with two runs apiece. However, Grant Park finally broke through against GSW ace Mike Goodwin, scoring four times on six hits over the final two innings in recording a 6-4 decision.
The loss ends the Panthers’ season at 11-14.
“Mike pitched a pretty good game,” GSW catcher Kaiden Hibler said. “Our problem was that every time we put runners on base, we couldn’t get them in. We couldn’t capitalize on anything at all.”
That included leaving 11 runners on base while also not scoring on two separate occasions after having the bases loaded and no outs.
“Leaving the bases loaded twice in situations where all we needed to do is put the ball in play … this is a tough one,” GSW coach Todd Grieff said. “We were on base all day today and couldn’t get the job done.”
GSW scored in the bottom of the first inning on a walk by Cody Harvey, a sacrifice bunt by J.J. Medders and an RBI single by Chris Lardi. After Goodwin gave up two runs in the top of the third inning, GSW answered with one of its own to tie it up. In the GSW third, Medders walked, Goodwin doubled and one out later scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Hibler.
That’s where the game stayed until the top of the sixth inning when the Dragons put one on the board and then tacked on three more in the seventh.
“That sixth inning kind of took the wind out of our sails,” Grieff said. “We definitely let the game get away from us at the end there.”
GSW did go down swinging by scoring twice in the seventh. With one out, Lardi walked, Hibler singled and one out later, Brendon Elens had a two-RBI double.
Goodwin absorbed the pitching loss. He went all seven innings allowing 10 hits and two walks while striking out six.
At the plate, GSW had just five hits but also benefitted from six walks and two hit batters.
Hibler said that he is going to miss going to the park and wearing Panther orange.
“I’m going to miss it. This is the last time that we are all going to be together,” he said. “It just kind of sucks that we couldn’t go out with a regional championship.”
Grant Park (12-5) will now make a return visit to Gardner for the sectional on Wednesday where the Dragons will face Christian Liberty.