Entering its fourth game of the season against Portsmouth Post 23 on Monday, Circleville Post 134 was looking to change its fortune against a regional rival.
The Panthers entered the postseason contest 0-3 against the Dickey’s, had been shutout twice and were outscored 16-1 in the three meetings.
That changed in a big way on Monday, as the Panthers assembled 13 hits and defeated the Dickey’s 11-6 in the Region V winner’s bracket final at VA Memorial Stadium.
The defending state champion Panthers (19-15) are a win away from returning to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season and for the seventh time in nine seasons.
Noah Cline went a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBI and four runs scored and Lane Larson was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. Ty Lau contributed a 2-for-2 day with three runs scored and Noah Rossiter had a pair of hits and drove in a run.
The Panthers outperformed 19 innings of work offensively against Post 23 by scoring a pair of runs in the first inning.
A two-out single to left off the bat of Larson scored Lau with the first run of the game and Cline alertly took an extra base on the play to make it 2-0, with Larson advancing to second.
The Panthers tacked on an insurance run in the second with an RBI double to left by Tanner Bennett scoring Cody Kennedy and another in the fifth when Cline scored on a passed ball.
Post 23 answered with a four-spot in its half of the fifth to tie the game at 4-4.
The Panthers responded to being suddenly tied by batting around in the sixth to score five runs.
A bases loaded walk to Cline forced in Lau to allow the Panthers to retake the lead, then back-to-back RBI singles off the bats of Larson and Seth Lockard scored Bennett and Nick Salyer.
Cline later came around to score on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly courtesy of Andrew Gricic brought in Larson with the fifth and final run of the inning.
Post 134 wasn’t satisfied, however, as it pushed across two insurance runs in the seventh on an RBI single to left by Cline to score Lau and a two-out single to left off the bat of Rossiter to plate Cline.
The Dickey’s scored twice in their half of the seventh, but fell well short.
Cline worked six innings and allowed seven hits and four runs, three earned, to claim the win. Max Brooks tossed the final inning to finish off the win.