Ponies take two from Northeast Texas
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This time a year ago, the Panola Ponies’ baseball team had posted a 19-23 record overall. Their 11-15 won-loss record in conference play had dropped them into 5th place in the Eastern Zone, with only an outside chance of winning a spot in the conference tournament. As it happened, the Ponies missed making the conference tournament for the first time since Coach Todd Shelton took over the reins.
What a difference a year makes.
Saturday, April 13, the Ponies swept a doubleheader from the Northeast Texas Eagles on the Eagles’ home turf, 5-0 and 13-8. The twin wins ran the Ponies’ overall record to 24-14. Their 18-6 record in conference firmly entrenches the Ponies in second place in the zone, with a realistic shot at nudging Navarro’s Bulldogs out of the top spot. The Bulldogs are 18-3 in conference play, 1.5 games ahead of the Ponies, who have eight conference games remaining, including a doubleheader between the two leaders April 20.
In the first game of Saturday’s action, three former Carthage Bulldogs played key roles in the Ponies 5-0 win. Gavin Williamson continued his winning ways on the mound, tossing a 7-inning shutout, while striking out six, holding the Eagles to 4 hits and walking only one batter. Only two Eagles advanced as far as second base, and none made it to third. Williamson was backed by an airtight Pony defense, which turned double plays in the first and seventh innings.
The Ponies scored twice in the top of the second. Carthage’s Clint Cage led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on Randy Ventura’s single. Ventura stole second before catcher Jacob Blissett, another Carthage product, cracked a double to the right-centerfield gap to score Ventura and Cage.
Derrian “Boom” James led off the third inning with a walk, advanced on Greg Martens’ single, and scored on Hunter Hagler’s single. With the score 3-0, Cage led off the 6th with a double down the left field line and scored when third baseman Matt Spruill singled up the middle. Blissett walked, stole second, and scored the final run of the game on shortstop Trevin Sonnier’s single.
The second game was an offensive slugfest. The Ponies massed 17 hits en route to 13-8 victory. James, Martens, Hagler, and Ventura had three hits each. Both James and Hagler had 4 RBI. James and Martens, the numbers one and two hitters in the line-up, each scored three times. Cage had a sacrifice fly RBI and doubled. Catcher Ely Whitmire scored twice. Giovanni Lugo had two hits and scored a run.
On the mound, Hunter Palmer gave way to reliever Robbie Petty in the middle of the 5th, with the Eagles leading 6-4. Petty pitched 3 2/3 innings to earn the win. Adam Atkins closed the game for the Ponies.
The Ponies’ next conference games are a doubleheader Wednesday, April 17, against the Bossier Parish Cavaliers in Bossier City, Louisiana. Three weeks ago the Cavs split a DH with the Ponies in Carthage. Earlier in the season the Ponies swept the Cavs in Bossier City. At 7-14 in conference play, the Cavs are battling for a play-off spot.
In the run-up to the conference tournament, Coach Todd Shelton has attempted to re-schedule non-conference rain-outs with two Mississippi teams at neutral sites. Watch for updates in the Pony Express.