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PRC baseball takes 1-0 lead to Brookhaven in playoff series

Pearl River Central’s baseball team fought back from an early deficit to beat the Brookhaven Panthers 7-6 Thursday evening in a highly contested playoff matchup.

The game was tied 6-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh with Jared Dickens and Hunter Brunson both being walked before Brock Craft stepped up to the plate.

A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third base, and a dribbler from Craft down the first base line put the Panthers in a predicament.

Brookhaven couldn’t field the ball in time to get it home, and Dickens scored the winning run to give the Blue Devils game one of the three game series.

After the game, Head Coach Neil Walther said his team needs to be more attentive in game two following the back and forth that occurred in the first matchup.

“You have to play with a lot more focus. We have to be better than that as far as just executing. I don’t think we did a very good job executing.”

“We had three separate situations where we had a guy on third base, one out, and didn’t get the run in. Two of them were strikeouts and if you just put the ball in play you give yourself a chance, and that’s who we are. It’s not doubles off the wall, it’s putting the ball on the ground and putting some pressure on people, and we didn’t do a good job of that,” Walther said.

Justin Robinson went six innings and struck out seven, which was important because it meant Walther didn’t have to go deep into his bullpen to close out the game.

Heath Brunson came in for the seventh, and was able to get out of a tight final inning to allow the Blue Devils to walk off.

“It’s great that (Robinson) gives us six. Heath (Brunson) usually comes in and pounds the zone but he had a little trouble. (However), he was under 25 (pitches), so he’s still available for game two. I think it was an eye opener and hopefully we can learn from this,” Walther said.

If PRC wins game two the Blue Devils will take the series and move on to the next round of the playoffs.

The Blue Devils were down in the first and second innings, then saw the game get tied up 6-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

However, the experienced group didn’t panic, and did what was necessary to grind out the win.

“I think they showed composure, but sometimes I think they play too loose. At no time in this game did they feel like they were going to lose this game, or even if they do lose they’re not going to lose the series, so there wasn’t that sense of urgency and I think they have to get a sense of urgency,” Walther said.

Throughout the lineup there are players who have spent years playing at the varsity level and in playoff games, so it’s understandable the athletes didn’t cave under the stress of the situation.

Walther is just hoping his athletes are more demanding of themselves moving forward.

“A lot of people say, ‘Don’t put pressure on yourself.’ But the greatest athletes do well under pressure. Pressure is not a bad thing. Pressure is a good thing because it leads to focus.”

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that at all. Pressure is not a bad thing; it can be a bad thing if you let it affect you negatively,” Walther said.