The Panthers set out to win the Southwestern 4A regular season baseball title again this year. They knew that to win their third consecutive conference championship, they had to go through Ardrey Kell.
Monday, Providence did just that.
For the second time this year, the Panthers knocked off the Knights. This game was every bit as great as anticipated.
It had a little bit of everything; solid pitching, defensive lapses, stolen bases, strategy, home runs and excitement.
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In the end, the score was Providence 5, Ardrey Kell 4. The Panthers finished their regular season with a 20-2 record and 13-1 mark in the conference.
Providence took advantage of two early costly errors and a walk to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Jake Fincher's solo shot in the third made it 3-0.
Trent Thorton stepped to the plate with two runners on in the top of the fifth and blasted a three run home run to keep the Knights alive, tying the score 3-3. Two innings later Thorton was at the plate again, this time belting a solo shot to give Ardrey Kell a 4-3 lead late.
The clutch Panthers came through when they needed to. Brett Austin tied the game with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the seventh.
Then, the Knights had a choice to make after Fincher's walk and stole a base. They chose to intentionally walk Jackson Campana and take their chances with Ty Buttrey, who had started the game on the mound for the Panthers. He allowed Thorton's three run homer.
Now was time for payback, and Buttrey laced a double to score Fincher.
The Knights and Panthers are still on a collision course. They could play again. They should play again.
The state champion will have to go through one or both teams.
Hopefully they will play each other to determine the best team in the state.
It would be must see baseball, and another chapter in one of the areas best.