By John Stepp for The Times Tribune
LYNN CAMP — Behind the arm of freshman pitcher Drew Mills, the Knox Central Panthers shutout the Pineville Mountain Lions 4-0 to capture the 51st District Championship. It is the second district title in three years for Brandon Hillard’s ballclub, and he did it this year with just three seniors and eight freshmen.
Despite their youth, Hillard said his team dreams big.
“Being district champions is fantastic. However, if that’s how high we have set the bar for ourselves, we need to stop dreaming,” said Hillard. “We dream big. We teach our kids to dream big. If we’re not going to dream to be state champions, then we need to stop.”
The Panthers put together impressive games in the 51st District Tournament, blanking Lynn Camp 24-0 and Pineville 4-0. Mills picked up the win against Pineville, allowing just two hits and striking out five. Hillard said he was happy with his pitching and defensive play during the tournament and has been most of the season.
“Collectively, our pitching staff has a 3.63 ERA on the season. Against the competition they’ve faced and as young as we are with one senior, one junior, four freshmen and an eighth grader, you’ve got to like our chances,” said Hillard. “Our pitching and defense has been spectacular at times this season. We just need our offense to catch up.”
With the win, the Panthers will begin play in the 13th Regional Tournament next week at Harlan County High School. They will face a runner-up from one of the opposing districts.