Heber Springs' home opener turned into a long, cold night for the Panthers Tuesday at Panther Field.
The Panthers committed four errors, hit six batters and walked nine more as South Side Bee Branch's Hornets took advantage of 19 defensive miscues to run away with a 16-3 victory.
“We had 19 [combined] walks, hit batters and errors,” said Heber Springs Coach B.J. Greene, who has the difficult challenge of molding a young team, especially in the pitching department.
Greene, who led Carlisle to the 2A state title game last season, enjoyed the ambience at his new digs.
“It's an awesome place to be. We have guys from the community that work for the city that came out and got the field ready to play.
“Stacey Mills, Tyler Irwin and Justin Hudspeth are the reason we are out here playing today. We had a great crowd and people really came out here and supported us. The atmosphere was really good for high school baseball.”
However, Greene certainly didn't enjoy seeing his team make pitching, fielding and base-running mistakes, which played a big part in the Panthers leaving nine runners stranded in scoring position.
“That has been our M.O. this season and we've got to get better at that,” said Greene. “We can't get timely hitting. That one time we had bases loaded and no out and we get picked off at third not paying attention.
When we get guys to second and third we have got to score them. There is no question about that.”
South Side left-handed leadoff hitter Garrett Collums sparked the Hornets all night, reaching base on all six of his at-bats, racking up three singles and four runs scored.
Collums ripped a single to right field in the top of the first inning and scored on an RBI off the bat of Will Pennington, who beat out a bases-loaded dribbler to the left side for an infield single.
Brian Dumas was hit-by-a-pitch and scored, Josh Payne walked and scored and Hunter Pennington drove home Will Pennington with an RBI sacrifice-fly to center as South Side played small ball for a 4-0 lead.
With two outs, Heber starting pitcher Dillion Moore got out of the top half by retiring Cade Sawyer on a groundout to Colby Allen at second base, leaving one runner stranded.
Trailing 4-0, Heber battled back with two runs on one hit in the bottom of the first.
Facing South Side starting pitcher Will Pennington, Brooks Morgan drew a leadoff walk before Harley Hooten launched his second home run of the season, pulling the ball over the left field fence.
Following an error and hit batsman, Pennington regrouped with two strikeouts and induced a groundout, retiring three straight as the Panthers left runners stranded at first and second.
Page 2 of 2 - South Side (2-0) added an insurance run in the top of the second as Collums walked and scored on Will Pennington's RBI groundout to Paden Flippin at shortstop.
With Heber down 5-2 entering the bottom of the second, Blaine Hill drew a full-count walk and scored on a two-out, RBI single by Hooten, who found a hole with a hard grounder up the middle.
Flippin reached on a two-out single, giving the Panthers runners at first and second, but Pennington got out of the jam, retiring Zach Ingram on a groundout to second.
South Side added one run in the top of the third when Mason Duncan walked and scored on an RBI single off the bat of Collums for a 6-3 lead.
The Panthers loaded the bases with no out in the bottom of the third as Allen walked, Judson Smith singled and Michael Kramer walked, however, South Side relieved Pennington with Duncan, who immediately picked off a runner at third base.
Duncan retired the next two batters, including one by strikeout as the Hornets escaped the bottom half without allowing a run.
In the final four frames, Duncan limited Heber to only two hits, both by Ingram – the Panthers' freshman cleanup hitter. Duncan rang up seven strikeouts while issuing three free passes in five innings of work.
Leading 10-3 entering the top of the seventh and facing Ingram, who relieved Moore in the third, South Side put the game out of reach by scoring six runs on five hits.
Capps, who finished 2-for-5 with two doubles, crushed a two-run double to left field and Hunter Pennington followed with a two-run triple to the alley in right center.
Capps and Pennington both produced 3 RBI for South Side (2-0), while Duncan and Will Pennington each drove home two runs.
Hooten led Heber (1-3), finishing 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, including a two-run home run and Ingram was 2-for-3 while reaching safely three times.
After visiting Carlisle on Thursday, the Panthers head to Jonesboro, where they will play a twin bill versus Jonesboro Westside and Valley View on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at Valley View.