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Panthers primed for hosting regional tournament

Moyer Field will ring with the ping of aluminum bats thisweekend, starting today at 4 p.m. That’s when Laurel meets Terry inthe opening round of the Class 4A Brookhaven Regional.

The Ole Brook Panthers tackle George County at 7 tonight in theother opening round game of the double-elimination tournament.Three games are scheduled Saturday. Friday’s winners play at noonand Friday’s losers play at 3 p.m. An elimination game is set for 6p.m.

Finals are Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. It could run 2 gamesMonday if the once-beaten survivor wins the opener.

“If our pitchers can throw strikes and we play good defense, wehave a chance at winning this thing,” predicted BHS head coachRandy Spring. His Panthers (21-6) won the Division 6-4A title forthe second straight year.

They are led by 8 seniors: pitcher Scotty Smith, outfieldersXavier Qualls, W.T. King and Matt Walker, catcher Adam Ogden andinfielders Brooks Hall, Cody Dunaway and Josh Patrick.

Smith (6-2) and Hall (7-1) are both right-handers with the bestrecords on the Panther pitching staff. Sophomore Brandt Hinton(3-0) and junior Darius Perkins (3-1) have seen some starting duty,too.

Hall has 1.56 ERA, striking out 48 batters and walking 14. Smithhas fanned 55 batters and walked 11.

At the plate, Qualls is batting .466. Ogden is batting .425 with3 home runs. Perkins has forged a .412 batting average and hit 3homers. Junior first baseman Grant McDonnieal is batting .377.Patrick (.382), King (.328), Hinton (.421), Dunaway (.333) andSmith (.394) are other leaders. Super sub Elliott Warren is batting.600 in 15 games as a freshman.

Spring said he expects a tough test with George County. TheRebels are led by senior right-hander Brett Davis, a 6-foot-1,215-pounder who has signed with Gulf Coast Community College.

“Davis is one of the better pitchers in the South,” said Spring.”When he’s on the mound they can play with anybody. He’s a hardthrower with a really good breaking ball.”

The Rebels are coached by Bruce Thornton.

Spring said Laurel’s Golden Tornadoes (16-6) are talented, too.”They beat (nationally-ranked) Petal 4-2 last Friday night. Theyhave two pretty good pitchers in Ben Smith and Demond Morrow.”

Division 6-4A No. 4 Terry has been playing well lately,especially with the return of several injured players. The Bulldogshad dominated the division in recent years before Brookhavenstepped up.

Lawrence Co. At Petal

The Lawrence County Cougars and McComb Tigers will represent6-4A in the Petal Regional. The Cougars (10-12) play Petal tonightat 7. McComb plays Pearl River Central at 4.

“Petal is the No. 1 team in the state of Mississippi,” saidLawrence County coach Chris Clark. “They are a good team but wehave a chance to beat them. We played them twice this year and wehad a chance in one of them.”

At the plate, the Cougars are led by rightfielder MarlonStanfield with a .396 average. Third baseman Luke Watts bats .377,first baseman Casey Williams .349, infielder Trent Hartzog .348,infielder Klien Harbour .340, leftfielder Jonathan Stephens .313.second baseman Joseph Evans .267, centerfielder Michael Thompson.267 and catcher Jake Russell .159.

Stevens, a sophomore, leads the Cougars with 5 homers and 33RBI. Williams, a senior, has 31 RBI.

On the mound, Harbour has a 4-2 record. Watts is also 4-2.