Tiftarea Panthers overwhelm Westminster, advance to second round in state baseball

Apr. 30—CHULA — Tiftarea Academy is set to face Heritage of Newnan and revenge is on the Panthers' mind for this Friday's elite eight matchup.

"It's going to be fun," said head coach Chance Benson of the rematch at the end of the week with the team that knocked them out of the state playoffs a year ago. "They beat us at our place last year, an 8-9 matchup. This year, we get to go to their place."

The Tiftarea-Heritage rematch was set up Monday when the Panthers swept Westminster of Augusta in a first round series, run-ruling both games, 15-0 and 12-0, in a combined nine innings of play. Heritage, who earned a first round bye, is the No. 3 seed in the bracket.

Griffin Lee walked off the first game against Westminster with a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth, scoring Harrison Powell and John Michael White to meet the run rule threshold. A 10-run second inning had put Tiftarea in position for the quick finish.

Game two was slower to develop. Tiftarea went up 2-0 in the first before tacking on eight in the fourth..A two-run fifth gave the Panthers plenty of cushion for a run-rule, not that they needed it.

Robert Garner, Parks Colwell, Eli Hannah, Winston Lamb and White combined to shut out the Wildcats over the two games.

Benson was very pleased with the outcomes. Tiftarea started slow in 2024, but has picked it up in the second half of the season.


Three runs plated in the first. Lamb drove in John Jackson for the initial tally before Jackson Parrish scored on an error off the bat of Asher Cox. Jacob Joyner's fielder's choice brought in Cox.

Fourteen men batted in the second, with Hannah, Ridley Monk and Parrish each getting two hits in the frame.

Hannah, Monk and Jackson loaded the bases three batters in and Parrish and Lamb picking up RBIs. Two runs came in off Cox's fielder's choice.

Joyner was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded ad Garner drove in two with a single. Hannah and Jackson had hits for RBIs before Parrish made it 13-0 with a two-run double to left field.

Benson began subbing heavily in the third, with 18 different players ultimately stepping to the plate in four innings.

"I was very impressed," said Benson with the contributions of every man who had a chance to play. They come to work every day and he was happy for his non-regulars to get a chance in the state playoffs. Powell and White were hit by pitches in the fourth when Lee sent a ball to left field to end the game.

Garner and Colwell each gave up a hit, both by Ben Renshaw. In Colwell's inning, the Panthers pulled off a nifty 3-6-3 double play started by Fletcher Walker.

Parrish, Hannah and Monk each had two hits. Cox and Parrish each drove in three runs. Garner struck out five in two innings.


Benson said Charlie Grinalds was Westminster's No. 1 pitcher. He was much harder for the Panthers to figure out, with only two runs until the fourth inning.

After Parrish reached on a walk and Lamb on an error, Cox singled in the former and Lane Cole's sac fly brought in Landon Clark, Lamb's courtesy runner.

Tiftarea had two hits in the third, but a rally was snuffed out in a rundown. Fortunately, they were rolling again in the next inning in a mighty two-out rally.

Garner and White (running for Hannah) were on the bases with two down, Jackson extending the fourth when he was plunked to fill the bags.

Parrish and Lamb each walked, making it 4-0. A single by Cox took a strange hop, plating two more runs. Cole reached on an error before Joyner singled in Cox.

Joyner and Cole became runs No. 9 and 10 on a Garner double to deep right that almost left the yard. At 10-0, Tiftarea was now in position to end the game early.

Westminster loaded the bases in the fourth before White ended the threat with a strikeout. Back at the dish, the Panthers had two more runs left in them.

Back-to-back walks started the frame for Jackson and Parrish, Charlie Burke taking over for Jackson on the basepaths. Cox delivered both on a double, increasing the score to 12-0.

Like White the inning before, Lamb saw the bases loaded, then struck out his man to finish the game.

Cox continued swinging a hot bat in the second game, driving in five runs on three hits.