By Thomas Sellers Jr.
BARTLETT — Regional Monday night is win or go home.
The Brighton Cardinals came to Freeman Park to take on the District 14-3A champions Bartlett Panthers with a berth in Sub-State on the line. Cardinal Skipper Brian Oswalt expected his team to reach this point.
“We started off slow at the beginning,” he recalled. “And then I talked to all the guys just a minute ago and said, ‘I was worried about the beginning. Middle way we started to get a little bit better. The last 7 or 8 games we started playing pretty hard.’ That was pretty much what I’m used to giving 120 percent every play.”
The extra boost from the Cardinal players helped Brighton reach the District 13-3A Tournament title game and earn a spot in Regionals. For six innings it appeared the Cardinals would take the next step and advance tied 1-1.
But a couple of miscues by the Cardinals allowed a Panther to cross home plate to make the score 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Down to three outs, the Cardinals tried to rally in the seventh inning. Then a leadoff double transformed into a caught stealing at second base. A couple of outs later the Panthers were on their way to the Region championship game and Sectionals.
“We hit the baseball tonight,” Oswalt noted. “It’s just one of those things it just didn’t fall right for us. Hathcock pitched a hack of a game. We’re one hit away from breaking it wide open.”
Brighton jumped ahead 1-0 in the second inning sparked by a Colton Hathcock single. Then catcher Bentley Jones smacked a double to set the table for senior Tanner McDivitt.
McDivitt’s groundball allowed the run to score giving the Cardinals the early advantage.
The Panthers deadlocked the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning with a bases loaded walk. The score remained the same until Bartlett’s score in the sixth inning.
Oswalt said his group of seniors made the 2014 season special and helped bring a long a talented underclassmen group.
“They couldn’t play any harder for me,” he concluded. “That’s all I ask for.”