Panthers honor Eslinger before first game

Published 8:09 pm Monday, February 20, 2012

The beginning of baseball season in Chilton County was even more special than usual Monday.

The seasons for local teams began when former Jemison player Donny Eslinger threw out the first pitch before the JHS junior varsity home game against LAMP.

Eslinger was seriously injured in September 2011 when rocket-propelled grenades were dropped on his military base in Afghanistan. He recently returned home to Jemison as he continues to recover.

“We were able to get the uniforms, and with it being Presidents’ Day…it was perfect,” JHS Principal Alan Thompson said.

The Jemison teams wore special jerseys with “Panthers” printed in the red, white and blue of the American flag, and “SPC Eslinger” was added to the sleeves.

Lester Henderson said he and the other LAMP coaches were aware of the ceremonial first pitch and talked to their players about its significance.

“A lot of our guys remember him,” Henderson said of the 2010 JHS graduate. “It’s great. We’re glad to see him out here.”

Eslinger saw the JV Panthers defeat LAMP and the varsity squad fall, 15-3, also to LAMP.

Jemison’s Jackson Mims went 2-for-3 at the plate with a two-run home run in the varsity game.

Just down the road in Thorsby, the Rebels opened their season with an 11-1, five-inning win over Verbena.

The visiting Red Devils took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Jesse Ellis’ single brought home Christian Coston, but THS starting pitcher Brantley Maddox settled down and didn’t allow another run while striking out six batters.

The hosts’ offense, meanwhile, scored early and often: three runs in the bottom of the first inning, five in the fourth and three in the fifth.

The game was ended early on a Parker Bryan sacrifice fly that plated Bo Hoffman.

Denham Childers, Jace Maddox and Jason Price all had multiple hits in the game for Thorsby.