After his team rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the seventh Friday, Paradise’s Caiden Berry stepped to the plate with the tying runs at second and third.
On a 1-2 pitch, Berry drove a ball into the gap in right-center field for what looked to be his third double of the game. As Paradise runners rounded the bases on the sinking liner, Ponder’s lanky right fielder Josh Peterson made a headfirst dive toward center field to snag the ball inches before hitting the ground and finally securing the 11-9 Ponder victory.
Peterson’s catch ended Paradise’s rally from nine runs down in the final inning two runs short and dropped the Panthers (14-5-1) to 3-2 in District 9-2A.
“We’re fine. This doesn’t change anything,” said Paradise shortstop Jarret Holt. “We needed this. We were on a pedestal and needed to be knocked down a bit.”
Ponder delivered an early wake-up call with seven runs in the first two innings on three doubles among seven hits. Ponder built the lead to 11-1 in the top of the fifth.
Ponder starter Collin Knight held Paradise to a run on five hits over the first four-plus innings and came two outs from finishing off Paradise in the fifth.
Knight pitched six innings, allowing four runs – three earned – on seven hits.
“You have to give them credit. They played a great game,” said Paradise coach Mike Fehler. “No. 20 (Knight) pitched well for them.”
A one-out, RBI-double by Berry to right-center field scored Austin Hogan and kept the Panthers from being run-ruled.
With his team still alive, Jarret Holt, who took over in relief for Berry and Corbin Holt with one out in the fifth, silenced the Ponder bats. He pitched a scoreless and hitless final two and two-thirds.
“I was just throwing strikes,” Jarret Holt said. “That’s what we needed to do. We weren’t really changing up our pitches early.”
Down by nine runs entering the seventh, Hogan started the inning with an infield single and came in to score on a double by Colton Meadows. Berry brought Meadows home with a groundout to second.
The next seven Panthers reached base. Dillon Meadows pulled Paradise within three runs with a two-run single to center. He made it 11-9, scoring on a wild pitch.
Dillon Meadows went 3-for-5.
Paradise’s Sam Robinson and Hogan worked walks and moved to second and third.
Ponder went to its fourth pitcher of the inning Carson Knight with the tying runs aboard. He struck out Colton Meadows before Peterson made the final out to end the game with his play in right field.