STERLING – With his team down by three and the bases loaded with two outs in its last at bat, Newman’s Quincy Coomes laced a sharp line drive down the right-field line.
The ball sliced just foul, however, and moments later Erie-Prophetstown reliever Jordan Chandler struck out Coomes looking to preserve the Panthers’ 5-2 Three Rivers win Friday at Newman.
“I struggled at the plate,” Coomes said. “I couldn’t come through.”
“They probably would have tied the ballgame if that ball doesn’t go foul,” Panthers coach Jason Orman said.
Coomes was the starting pitcher for the short-handed Comets (0-2, 0-2), whose two seniors, Colin McGinn and Kyle Moore, are on vacation over spring break. Coomes and Panthers starter Kenneth Cole dominated the early innings.
Coomes fired three-hit ball over four shutout innings. He did not issue a walk and struck out seven.
“I wish I could have kept going,” said Coomes, who was on a pitch count while making his first varsity start. “I didn’t think I had the best stuff. It just worked for me.”
“Quincy did a real good job,” Newman coach Tom Wilson said. “He’s got a lot of ability. He just needs some experience.”
Cole, a strapping, red-headed left-hander was even better. One night after throwing two innings in relief, he hurled five shutout innings of one-hit ball for the win, struck out nine and walked just one.
Cole (2-0) did have a bit of adversity.
“I forgot my good-luck charm,” he said. “It’s my girlfriend’s hair tie. I usually put it in my back pocket. I left it in the bag. I felt better once I got that in my pocket.”
When Coomes exited, the Panthers (4-2, 2-0) pounced, scoring three runs in the fifth. Zach Hart cracked a two-run triple and Kyle Coleman added an RBI single.
Erie-Prophetstown made it 4-0 in the fifth when Austin Meadows got a pinch-hit after replacing Cole and later scored on a wild pitch.
Newman, which had just one hit and struck out 14 times, scored both of its runs in the bottom of the sixth. A.J. Sharp’s first-inning single to center was the Comets’ lone hit.
Chandler, who worked the last two innings after not pitching since last Thursday, walked the first four batters he faced. The fourth was to Coomes and forced in a run. Shayne Allen followed with a sacrifice fly.
Chandler, who walked six and struck out five, escaped further trouble with a pair of strikeouts.
In the bottom of the seventh, Chandler struck out the first two batters before a pair of walks were sandwiched around an error to load the bases before Coomes’ near-miss foul and ensuing strikeout.
“If we want to have a chance to win the conference title, we have to be a lot tougher than that and put games away,” Orman said.
Matt Wagenecht took the loss, allowing five runs on seven hits in three innings.