Jalen Fowler

Corydon Central’s Jalen Fowler takes a blow to the ear as he collides with Evansville Harrison catcher Mason Baker at the plate during the Panthers’ 11-10 loss to the Warriors on Friday night. Fowler was ruled safe on the play after Baker lost the ball in the collision.

With the high school baseball regular season reaching its end, Corydon Central made the trek to the southwestern corner of the state as part of its last road trip prior to the postseason.

As the Panthers settled into the visitor’s dugout at Evansville Harrison, one notable figure was absent: head coach Robby Ort. According to assistant coach Nolan Brightman, Ort opted to stay behind as he and his wife welcomed the newest member of their family the same day.

The long bus ride to Evansville seemed to affect the Panthers through the first half of the game, getting shut out through the first four frames while the Warriors appeared poised for a five-inning run-rule victory. Instead, the Panthers scored 10 runs during the final three innings and had the bases loaded while trailing 11-10 before a called third strike ended the late rally for a tough loss for the visitors.

“Our lineup’s pretty good at telling the next guy what to look for, what to see from the pitcher, make sure that they can handle it and try not to do too much,” Brightman said. “We were down quite a bit, I think 11-4 at one point. I told them that you can’t hit an eight-run home run; just keep people moving and make good, short swings.”

Tyler Singleton started the early assault against the Panthers’ Nolan Erwin with a one-out single followed by Levi Thomas getting plunked and Brooks Thomas hitting a single to load the bases. Blake Duff became the second hit batter of the inning before Mason Baker drew a bases-loaded walk and Nolan Doan managed an RBI groundout to give the Warriors an early 3-0 lead.

Erwin looked to rebound in the bottom of the second when he recorded the first two outs on the ground. Singleton lived up to his name with a two-out base knock before motoring home on a Levi Thomas RBI triple followed by a Brooks Thomas grounder being mishandled by Jacob Stark to bring another run.

A trio of one-out singles by Doan, Hayden Barnes and Eli Speer in the bottom of the third preceded a pair of bases-loaded walks to Kaleb Bard and Singleton to push the edge to 7-0 before Erwin concluded the third inning with a fielder’s choice to end his outing on the mound.

“(Erwin) wasn’t locating great with the fastball, and then the off-speed pitches were up in the strike zone,” Brightman said. “He started settling in, but our defense wasn’t great either.”

Duff welcomed Panthers’ reliever Waylon Doblado to the mound with a lead-off walk before advancing to second on a Baker grounder. Doan followed with a one-out RBI double before moving to third on a wild pitch, allowing him to score on a sacrifice fly from Jay Sutton to expand the lead to 9-0.

The Panthers’ bats came alive in the top of the fifth when Devin Baty hit a one-out single before moving to third on a double by Jalen Fowler. Logan Edwards hit a grounder back to the mound, but hesitation by Levi Thomas allowed Baty to score as did Fowler despite colliding with Baker at the plate, allowing Edwards to move to third on the miscue. The senior catcher was allowed to jog home when Wesley Taylor turned an eight-pitch at-bat into a two-run home run over the left-field fence to close the deficit to 9-4.

The Warriors answered back in the bottom half when Kaiden Bard roped a lead-off double to center before Singleton was plunked. Brooks Thomas followed with a one-out RBI single before a Kory Kingsbury grounder was mishandled by Tyler Stark to give the Warriors an 11-4 lead.

Down to their final three outs, the Panthers made their move in the top of the seventh, starting with Fowler working a lead-off walk followed by an Edwards single. With one out, Colton Smith hit a ground ball that ate up Nathan Bougher for an error to allow Fowler to score. After Carter Coffman drew a free pass, Erwin, Tyler Stark, Jacob Stark and Devin Baty work together for four consecutive RBI singles as the Panthers played station to station, the deficit shrinking with each hit. In his second plate appearance of the inning, Fowler was hit by a pitch to bring home another run, closing the deficit to one run.

Edwards recorded the second out on an infield fly, allowing Taylor to come to the plate with the game on the line. After working the count full, Taylor took an outside pitch before moving toward first base on what he believed to be ball four. Instead, the home plate umpire rung him up on a late called strike three to end the ballgame, the Warriors escaping with a tight 11-10 victory.

“I would say that that home plate umpire was one of the more consistent umpires that we’ve had all year, but, on that last pitch, I felt like the catcher brought it off the turf. I guess (the umpire) saw it differently,” Brightman said. “I tell the guys to never leave it in the umpire’s hands. If a pitch is close enough, try to do something with it. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.”

He continued, “We played from behind a lot this yea, and this team doesn’t quit. Obviously, everybody hates losing, but we’re learning who we are as a team.”

Despite the tough call to end the game, Taylor had a strong night at the plate, going 3 for 5 with two RBIs to lead the Panthers, while Edwards also drove in a pair. Erwin recorded three hits in four at-bats, while Jacob Stark and Baty each had two knocks. Doan led the Warriors by going 2 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Levi Thomas took the win on the mound after allowing four earned runs on eight hits and striking out four across six strong innings. Erwin took the loss after allowing seven runs on seven hits during three innings.

The Panthers finished the regular season on Monday with another tight loss, falling to Borden 8-7. They will begin post-season play tomorrow (Thursday) when they face Salem in the opening round of the Class 3A Sectional 30 at Madison Consolidated at 5:30 p.m. The winner of that contest will face either the host Cubs or Scottsburg in the second semi-final on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Corydon Central 0 0 0 0 4 0 6 10 13 2

Evansville Harrison 3 2 2 2 2 0 X 11 10 2

WP: Thomas (EV); LP: Erwin (CC) (3-5); 2B: Bard, Doan (EV), Fowler, Taylor (CC); 3B: B. Thomas (EV); HR: Taylor (CC).