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by Mark Cheffey
Panther baseball coach Mark Loman said some of his favorite teams from the past were the ones that ended up being surprises.
Well, he got another one, during his final season at Palmyra.
After having weathered an 0-7 start, the Panthers not only came back with a 12-3-1 turnaround, but they won their way into the state playoffs with a 6-2 district title win over Clark County Wednesday in Shelbina.
“They are special, and not just because my son is on the team, but all these guys have really hung in there and fought through those early games,” said Coach Mark Loman.
Palmyra was scheduled to host Elsberry (17-11) in the Class 3 Sectionals Tuesday. Results were not available for this issue.
The winner was to advance to the quarterfinals, Thursday, and play the winner of Tuesday’s sectional between Hermann and Father Tolton Regional Catholic.
Many Panthers had a hand in the big district title win, but no bigger than that provided by Ethan Tallman, who started on the mound.
The sophomore right-hander pitched five solid innings to earn the win and helped himself in a big way at the plate, going 2-for-3 with three RBI.
The Panthers grabbed an early advantage by scoring four runs in the bottom of the first with Landyn Smith, Alex Wilson, Alex Loman and Rayce Ragar all singling before Tallman
capped the rally with a two-run double down the right field line.
“That was huge. I mean really huge,” Coach Loman said of getting a quick four-run lead.
“Those four runs allowed us to relax,” he said.
“It made me feel good,” Tallman said, not only to have a lead when he took the mound, but for having had a big hand in it.
“He’s really come through with some big clutch hits for us recently,” Coach Loman said.
Loman hit a two-out single to drive in Wilson for the fifth run in the second inning, and Tallman added one more insurance run with a run-scoring double in the fifth.
Tallman struck out the side in the top of the first, then found himself in jams in the next four innings, but found ways to minimize the damage and maintain the team’s lead.
The first two Cardinals hit singles in the top of the second, but Tallman held them to just one run when a lined drive was caught in right field, and then he struck out the next better and induced a grounder he was able to field himself and throw out the batter at first.
A walk and two singles resulted in a run in the third, but that would be the last run for South Shelby as Palmyra turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Leadoff singles and an error, set the Panthers up for trouble in the fourth, but a caught stealing on a throw by Loman, the catcher, to third, followed by two strikeouts, ended the threat.
A leadoff single in the fifth was erased by another double play, started by Tallman, who then worked around a wild-pitch strikeout by inducing an easy flyball out to left field.
“He was really solid on the mound,” Coach Loman said, noting Tallman’s pitch count got high after some long innings.
“But he got us to where we needed to be,” he said.
Tallman gave a lot of credit to his defense.
“That helped me get out of some big innings that could have been bad,” Tallman said.
His catcher, Loman, credited Tallman’s grit.
“He’s an ‘I want the ball’ type of guy, and he got it done tonight,” Loman said.
Loman relieved Tallman in the top of the sixth and pitched two shutout innings with a grounder to shortstop and throw to first ending the game, and starting the Panthers’ district title celebration.
Palmyra out-hit Clark County 10-8 with Smith, Loman, Tallman and Adam Goodwin producing two hits each.
The players believe the tough times early in the season have helped them improve throughout the season.
“We’re coming together at the right time,” Loman said.
Tallman tipped his hat to a positive attitude from the top.
“It was Coach Loman telling us to keep the positive energy up. He’s been a great coach,” Tallman said.
Coach Loman said the team has been grinding it out from the beginning.
“Hard work and these guys just persevering and playing loose,” he said, noting that players have had to learn new positions.
“We just had different people learning to do so many different roles,” he said. “We’re not really deep, so that’s huge, these guys stepping up.”
Second-seeded Clark County advanced to the title game with a 7-4 semifinal win over South Shelby.
This year’s MSHSAA Class 3 State Championships will be held June 1-2 at US Ballpark in Ozark.
It was not without some excitement the Panthers advanced to the title game with an 11-9 win over fifth seeded Monroe City in the semifinals Monday.
Palmyra went up 11-7 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth on singles by Goodwin and Nolyn Richards along with a walk to Ragar and Smith getting hit by a pitch.
But the Panthers were in danger of losing the edge in the top of the seventh when Monroe City got a leadoff single and a one-out walk and soon had the bases loaded with just one out.
An infield error scored one run and a sacrifice fly scored another, by Smith, who was pitching in relief of the starter, Goodwin, induced a fly out to left field to end the game.
Palmyra trailed 5-1 before taking the lead with a six-run, third inning rally.
The first three batters, Jon Lundberg, Smith and Wilson singled, Goodwin walked, Loman hit a sacrifice fly and Ragar singled ahead of Richards’ two-run homer that capped the scoring.
Monroe City tied the game with two runs in the next inning, but Palmyra answered with two in the sixth on walks by Loman and Ragar and RBI singles by Tallman and Colby Cook.
Goodwin was touched for six runs, three of them earned, over 3.1 innings, giving up six hits, including a home run, while striking out two.
Smith went the rest of the way, giving up three runs, one of them earned on two hits and two walks.
3/19 at S. Boone
S. Boone L 3-12, 0-1
Fulton L 2-10, 0-2
3/22 at Els. L 6-12, 0-3
3/29 QND L 0-15, 0-4
4/4 at B.G. L 2-5, 0-5
4/5 Macon L 0-6, 0-6
4/9 Mob. L 7-9, 0-7
4/11 at Unity W 11-5, 1-7
4/12 CC W 21-17, 2-7
4/14 at MC W 20-6, 3-7
4/15 Jacks. T 7-7, 3-7-1
at Busch Stad.
4/18 HV L 3-14, 3-8-1
4/19 at High. W 6-2, 4-8-1
4/28 at Cent. W 8-5, 6-8-1
4/30 B.O. L 1-5, 6-9-1
at S.C. W 6.5, 7-9-1
5/2 Lib. W 11-7, 8-9-1
5/7 Palmyra Slam
High.W 11-1, 9-9-1
5/9 S.S W 16-3, 10-9-1
5/12 Han. L 0-13, 10-10-1
5/13-18 District Tourney
(at S. Shelby)
5/16 MC W 11-9, 11-10-1
5/18 CC 6-2, 12-10-1
Elsberry 5 p.m.