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Panthers mount late game rally over Jaguars

The Georgiana Panthers baseball team capped its first three-game winning streak in recent memory with a tougher opponent than most.

The four-run seventh inning powered the Panthers past the Class 3A Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars at home Friday in a 9-8 win.

Georgiana head baseball coach Ken Hamilton said that the win wasn’t just proof of concept for the coming season, but the culmination of a journey that began when many of the team’s players were starting out in seventh grade.

Also, given the recent renaissance that Hillcrest-Evergreen’s athletes have enjoyed in recent years–the Jaguars won the Class 3A state championship in football this past season, and they came just a single buzzer-beater overtime 3-pointer short of winning the state championship in basketball, as well.

Undeterred by the opponent, Hamilton said that his players have shed their underdog mentality.

“Hillcrest-Evergreen has a very athletic baseball team, but Georgiana Baseball is at the point where the guys no longer hope to win, but we expect to win,” Hamilton said.

“That attitude has allowed us to do a better job of competing for seven innings against more athletic and talented teams.  We just want to represent our community well, and make people proud of us.”

But victory very nearly eluded the Panthers Friday, if not for a rally in the final inning of play.

With bases loaded and two outs, one of the most experienced Panthers took the plate.  The rest was history.

“We scored four runs in the last inning–three of them with two outs,” Hamilton said.

“The score was 8-6 and the bases were loaded, and Preston Hoffman doubled to clear bases and we won 9-8.”

The Panthers climb to 3-2 with the win over Hillcrest-Evergreen. 

Though the non-conference win over the Jaguars was a  relatively low-stakes affair, Hamilton is confident that the victory has the potential to reverberate throughout the remainder of the season.

“It reinforced the fact that we can win when we continue to believe in ourselves and trust the process,” Hamilton said.

The team faces a double-header on Friday with Calhoun.