BENTON – After defeating Russellville 9-1 in the opening round of the Benton Panther Invitational, the Benton Panthers finished the tournament in third place, losing to North Little Rock 3-0 on Friday, but handling Hot Springs Lakeside 6-2 on Saturday.
The Panthers (2-1) ran into a buzz saw against North Little Rock as starting pitcher Preston Oberling and reliever Spencer Byrd combined to give up one hit against Benton, while striking out 15 Panthers.
“They had a pitcher throwing in the mid-80s with pretty good stuff,” Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said. “We just didn’t compete at the plate. We had 15 strikeouts. It’s been a long time since we struck out 15 times in a game. We struck out seven times looking. That’s what I told the kids. You have to compete at the plate. If you strike out, just compete and we didn’t compete well at the plate. We just didn’t put the ball in play. We cannot have strikeouts like that. We have to keep working.”
Despite the performance at the plate, starting Panther pitcher, senior Justin Vincent, pitched well. In four innings, Vincent gave up an unearned run, five hits, two walks and struck out six. Trey Bishop relieved and gave up two unearned runs on two hits and two walks in three innings, while striking out two.
“Justin Vincent pitched well,” Balisterri said. “He went out there and did his job. He threw a few too many pitches, but early in the year it’s cold. I thought he did a great job.”
Senior left-hander Carson Holloway started for the Panthers against Lakeside and had pin-point control. Pitching six innings, Holloway gave up an unearned run on five hits, walking one and striking out six. He threw 73 percent of his pitches for strikes, throwing first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 24 batters he faced.
“We still didn’t hit well against Lakeside, but we got some big hits,” Balisterri said. “Colby Johnson had two hits and one of them was a two-run RBI. Carson had a good hit. We hit it good enough to win and we pitched well again.”
Johnson went 2 for 4 with two RBI and a run, and Holloway went 2 for 4 with an RBI against Lakeside.
“We’ve got a lot of kids on the team that can swing the bat,” Balisterri said. “We’re going to keep switching people around until we can find the guys that can swing it and put the ball in play. Not a bad start to the year, we just have to get our sticks going.
“We knew going in that experience on the mound, pitching was going to be our strength. Defensively, I was real pleased with how we played all weekend. We made a couple errors here and there, but for the most part we played good defensively. We just have to get the sticks going. In three games, we had 35 strikeouts. That’s not going to cut it.”
The Panthers will travel to Sheridan to take on Watson Chapel on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.