Pinewood Prep’s baseball team moved one win closer to a state title on Monday night, taking Game 1 of the best of three championship series for the SCISA AAA crown, 7-3, over Northwood Academy.

The Panthers will try to clinch their second championship in four years tonight at home. Pinewood Prep improved to 20-6 on the season in winning for the 15th time in its last 16 games. Northwood Academy falls to 26-6 overall, having lost three straight meetings with their region rivals in the last three weeks.

Junior left-hander J.D. Waite improved to 10-3 on the season with a complete game effort. Waite retired the last 11 hitters he faced

after allowing a two-run home run to Drayton Clutters in the bottom of the fourth, a blast that gave Northwood a 3-2 lead.

Waite allowed five hits total and struck out two.

“Give their guy a lot of credit because he hit a pretty good pitch out, the other way and got it out but J.D. really dug in after that and did a great job,” said Pinewood coach Phil Tobin. “He wasn’t at his best early, but he gave us a gutsy effort and kept us in the game.”

Pinewood Prep rallied to tie the game in the fifth on Hayden Heflin’s RBI double to score Stephen Hansen, who had singled and stolen a base.

Senior catcher Jack Buddin led off the sixth with a towering home run to left off Northwood starter Andrew Lockliear, putting the Panthers on top, 4-3. After a walk and a wild pitch put a runner on second, Northwood reliever Alex Windham made an errant throw on Austin Morgan’s bunt, allowing a runner to score. Hansen followed with a two-out run-scoring single for a 6-3 lead.

Pinewood added a run in the seventh for the final margin, finishing the game with eight hits. Buddin and Hansen had two hits each.

Clutters had two hits and three RBI for Northwood, delivering an RBI single in the second to give Northwood a 1-0 lead. Pinewood took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on an RBI triple by Johnny O’Shaugnessy and a Northwood error on an attempted squeeze.

“We know this thing isn’t over, not against a team like Northwood,” said Tobin. “Both of these teams played hard and they always do. Tonight we were able to play a little better and we got the win.”

“But I know Northwood. They are backed into a corner and they will come out swinging. They’re a quality team with quality kids and great coaches and we know we will have to match tonight’s effort to have a chance.”