The 'Comeback Cats' were at it again on Monday night in Searcy. Less than a week after rallying from down seven in the final inning to win a crucial 2-4A Conference game over Southside Batesville, the Heber Springs Panthers pulled off another monumental rally, this time coming from five down to defeat Class 3A power Harding Academy 10-9 in eight innings.
Trailing 6-1 after three frames, the Panthers chipped away and tied the game at 8-8 entering the bottom of the seventh, when catcher Tyler Moss came up with the play of the game.
The Wildcats (16-6), ranked in the top 5 in their classification, placed the winning run at third base with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
But Heber suddenly escaped the jam when Moss came up with a diving catch on a squeeze bunt that caromed behind home plate. After Moss had the instincts to find the ball and make the diving grab, he quickly popped up and gunned down the runner at third for an inning-ending double play.
“That play kept us in it,” said Heber Coach B.J. Greene. “It saved us.”
The Panthers (6-12) scored two runs on two hits to take the lead in the top of the eighth, starting when Chandler Jones led off with a walk and moved to second on Dillion Moore's sacrifice-bunt.
Following Zac Ingram's groundout, which moved Jones to third, Harley Hooten delivered a two-out RBI single up the middle, giving Heber a 9-8 lead.
Paden Flippin followed with an RBI double to deep center field that scored courtesy runner Austin McVay for a two-run cushion entering the bottom half.
Heber relief pitcher Chase Vines, who tossed to the final 5 2/3 to pick up the win, held Harding to one run in the eighth as the Panthers held on for another big victory.
Flippin (2-for-3), Jones (2-for-3), Judson Smith (2-for-3) and Harley Hooten (2-for-5) led the Panthers with two hits apiece, while Ingram, Moore, Michael Kramer and Brooks Morgan each collected one hit.
After hosting Clinton Tuesday, the Panthers wrap up 2-4A Conference play at Pine Bluff Dollarway on Thursday at 4 p.m.