by Rob Grubbs
On a night they were recognized by the AJC as the number one team in the state AAAAA baseball rankings, the Starr’s Mill Panthers seemed intent on backing that up on the field as they faced off against the Whitewater Wildcats in the final game of a three-game series, looking for the sweep.
Coach Brent Moseley’s team had won the first two games with great pitching and timely hitting, including a win on Thursday night at Whitewater behind a complete game pitching performance by Jack Moore for a 5-3 win in game 2. Starr’s Mill would send senior Will Evans to the mound on Friday to continue their string of solid starting pitching performances thus far and he would not disappoint. In a game that was shortened by the run rule, Evans pitched a three inning complete game no-hitter and stroked a two-run homer in the first inning as Starr’s Mill cruised to a 15-0 win for the sweep.
Evans, who will attend Birmingham Southern College next year to continue his baseball career, did it all, striking out five and retiring nine of the ten batters he faced with the only blemish being a first inning walk to Stone Kasten. He also went two for three at the plate, including the home run and helped rake down the field afterwards. It is as if he did everything except give the weather forecast before the game. Even the out he made at the plate was impressive, a grounder to deep short that Tyler Doanes made a web gem on preventing Evans from the perfect night.
The Panther lineup continues to show signs of explosiveness as they would pound out 13 hits, with Kyle Evert, Evans, Hayes Heinecke, and Drew Pepper all driving in two runs each. As the runs started to pile up in the third inning, the home concession stand had to accelerate a closeout sale to keep pace as the game was ending early through the run rule.
Based on the outstanding pitching performances throughout the series, only giving up 4 runs in the three games, near perfect defense, and the lineup’s production from top to bottom, there seems to be a solid argument across the board for the ranking the Panthers have received this early in the season.
Moseley said of his starting pitcher, “As good a ballplayer as that young man is, he is even a better person.”
For his heroic night, Evans would say, “I was having trouble at first getting my curve over for strikes, so I stayed with the fastball and had success and just worked ahead in the count. That was my first high school no hitter and it felt good. I would have liked to have gone 3 for 3 at the plate tonight as well, but the Whitewater shortstop made a heck of a play. I tip my hat to him for that.”
With rake still in hand, he returned to his postgame field maintenance duties that even a no-hitter cannot exempt a player from.
In this week’s schedule, the Panthers (8-1) will take their No. 1 ranking and face another county rival in the McIntosh Chiefs (8-4) in a three-game series with the top spot in the region on the line, while Whitewater will look to right the ship against the Fayette County Tigers (2-1) in their own key region series.