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Panthers split Senior Day doubleheader against Centauri

Cody McMillan looks to the umpire to see he scored on a diving slide into home. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
M-CHS closes out home schedule

Senior Days don’t always end with a Hollywood script.

Don’t tell that to M-CHS senior Trinidad McDonell.

In his final outing at McAndrew Field, McDonell fired a three-hit complete game, helping his team avenge a 10-8 loss to visiting Centauri in Game 1 with a 10-1 victory in the nightcap.

The Panthers senior struck out 11 Falcons, including one for the final out of the game on a blazing fastball.

M-CHS (8-9, 2-4 3A IML) dominated the second half of the doubleheader, thanks to McDonell’s gem and some early offense.

Junior outfielder Gabe Crowley drove in the game’s first run in the second inning with an RBI double, driving in classmate Lyle Carver. With two outs in the frame, the Panthers added three more runs, thanks to hits from juniors Evan LaMunyon and Braden Hallman.

The offense proved more than sufficient in support of the senior hurler, who faced just two over the minimum through four innings before surrendering the lone Falcon (11-10, 2-6 3A IML) run in the fifth inning.

Braden Hallman gets a hit Saturday against Centauri. The Panthers lost the first game of the doubleheader 8-10 but came back and won the second game 10-1. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
Evan LaMunyon celebrates with Braden Hallman after LaMunyon took off from first base to steal second, advanced to third on an overthrown ball and then scored when the throw to third was also overthrown. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
After hitting a bases loaded single, Lyle Carver is caught in a run down between first and second that allowed another Panther runner to score along with two other base runners to tie the game at 5-5. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)

While the fastball put Falcons away, McDonell’s command of his off-speed pitches helped keep the Falcons off-balance.

“My curveball was really working today,” said McDonell. “It felt good in the bullpen before the game – so I felt confident going with it right from the first pitch of the game.”

“He’s been a huge part of this program, ever since freshman year,” said M-CHS head coach Tim Passell, “and he’s been a guy we’ve been able to count on for leadership – he’s always going to give you everything he’s got.”

The Panthers responded with three runs in their half of the inning, with sophomore Miles Frost providing the biggest hit of the frame – an RBI double.

“Having that run support, especially early in the game,” reflected McDonell, “really helped us with confidence.”

Then, to cap the fireworks, LaMunyon crushed a ball to deep right field in the sixth inning, and as the Falcon right fielder gave chase, the Panther junior raced all 360 feet around the bases for an inside-the-park home run, creating the final margin.

For the Panthers, the Game 2 response looked more in character, after M-CHS found themselves in a deep hole for most of the opener. The Panthers battled back from five runs down to tie the game at 5-5 midway through the first meeting, only to see Centauri answer with another five-run burst.

However, a frantic rally in the seventh inning fell short, meaning the Panthers would have to share the afternoon with their IML rivals.

Junior Jake Blackmer collected a pair of hits, while senior JT Carver reached and scored a run in his final home doubleheader. Freshman Samson Lein added an RBI and a run for the Panther offense.

“JT has been a mainstay for this program,” said Passell of his other senior. “He’s been hardworking and does everything that we ask him to do.”

Frost and LaMunyon combined to strike out 10 Falcons, but Centauri senior Byron Shawcroft closed the door with the save.

“It’s been great coming out here every day, having fun,” McDonell said after the split.

“That was our biggest adjustment from game one to Game 2,” added Passell. “When we’re out there with positive energy – the guys were having fun and playing loose – we’re a completely different team.”

“It helped that we shortened up our swing, especially with two strikes,” said Passell, “and that made a huge difference.”

M-CHS enters the final week of the regular season with a pivotal role in the IML title race. While the Panthers themselves are out of the hunt, they will take on Alamosa on Wednesday afternoon in the San Luis Valley with a chance to spoil the league title ambitions of the Mean Moose (10-6, 5-1 3A IML).

From there, M-CHS will travel to Colorado Springs for a pair of games against Palmer and Strasburg on Saturday, May 14. The four remaining games will play a significant role in establishing the Panthers’ final RPI, which will determine their 3A regional seeding.

Recognizing that the future of M-CHS baseball appears bright, with a strong junior class and promising underclassmen group, McDonell hopes to see the program remain strong.

“I hope that this group goes farther than I ever could,” McDonell said.