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On Friday night, the magical season of the North Lamar Panthers baseball team came to an end. The Panthers were just two games away from making the state tournament in Austin.
After struggling in Game 1 of the series, North Lamar was hoping a game at their home field would yield better results. After seven innings, though, the Argyle Eagles was the team celebrating a state tournament berth after a 4-1 victory over the Panthers.
On Thursday night the Panthers dealt with left hander Parker Mushinski, a Texas Tech signee. On Friday they had to deal with lefty Drew Gooch-a TCU signee. North Lamar had a hard time getting on base against the senior pitcher. Chad Box, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, was the first baserunner for the Panthers as he drew a walk in the third inning.
Daniel Gibbons provided the first hit for North Lamar, which came in the fourth inning. Gooch pitched like a Division 1 college recruit as he only allowed four hits while striking out seven and walking two.
The only score for the Panthers came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Colton Wise hit a line drive to right field. The ball squirted past the fielder which allowed Wise to make it to third base. A few pitches later, on a passed ball, Wise came home to score.
While Argyle celebrated their first trip to the state tournament, North Lamar huddled in the corner so coach Scott Igleheart could talk to them. As they came back to the dugout, you couldn’t tell this team had just lost the ball game. Smiles for everyone as the parents and players snapped pictures of each other.
Gibbons gathered the team around for a group picture. As the players were waiting for pictures, Gibbons yelled for coach Igleheart to join them. He had to yell several times as the coach was a little ways away doing what he always did-obvserving his team.
“[Coaching baseball] is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” Igleheart said after the game. “You don’t know which piece is going to fit where at the beginning of the year.”
This team was a picture perfect description of that puzzle. Every person, no matter if they started or subbed, was vital to this team’s success. Coach Igleheart knew this too. After the game, he spoke to the media present at great length about each player and the role they played.
Afterall, this team left something for future North Lamar baseball players. This group of guys took the Panthers to the Regional Finals and they showed the younger students what it takes to get there.
“It started last year,” Igleheart said. “Losing to Crandall in that three-game series really pushed us to want to get further this year.”
If next year’s team sets the same goal and accomplishes it, the Panthers will find themselves in Austin. I’m pretty sure nobody in the school district would mind making those travel arrangements. For now, though, it’s time to reflect on a great season by the North Lamar Panthers. A season in which a group of guys brought together a community to cheer them on as they played America’s past time. From superstitious owls to yelling “good taco” from the dugout, this team reminded me of why we love the game.
Thank you North Lamar Panthers!!!