06/10/2018 12:40 AM -
Chicago Heights, Ill. – June 9, 2018 – The long wait is finally over for the Crestwood Panthers as they scratched their way into the win column after defeating the Southland Vikings.
The two teams played a back-and-forth game which finished 11-10 with both the Panthers and Vikings producing 14 hits. Neither team scored more than three runs in an inning.
“This win was a long time coming,” Panthers manager Isaac Valdez said. “We all knew it was going to happen at some point, but the players were determined and made it happen today.”
The game looked like more of the same for the Panthers, as starting pitcher Ryan Green (Savannah State/Port Royal, S.C.) served up a three-run home run to Vikings catcher Will Smithey in the second inning, setting the stage for the offensive explosion to come.
The Panthers would get one run back in the third inning following a Reggie Brock (Chicago State/Chicago, Ill.), but they would take their first lead an inning later when a Pat Mayo (Spring Hill College/Oak Lawn, Ill.) three-run double gave them a 4-3 lead. The Panthers would put together three more runs apiece in the fifth and seventh innings to make the score 10-4.
Green would exit the game after pitching five innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, walking two batters and striking out one.
Kyle Ostrowski (John A. Logan College/Tinley Park, Ill.) would replace Green in the sixth inning, making his first relief appearance this season. The left-hander worked his longest outing of the season going two innings, surrendering three runs on four walks and two hits. He would leave the game with the Panthers ahead 10-7.
Despite Ostrowski’s inability to consistenly throw strikes, Valdez thinks his pitcher’s performances are trending upward.
“Kyle is steadily improving, this was by far his best outing of the season. He left the game with the lead, that’s a huge positive. We’re going to keep working with his direction, but we need to keep taking small steps and not try to fix everything at once.”
Daniel Nelson (UW-Parkside/Aurora, Ill.) would come on to pitch in the eighth inning, making his first appearance of the season after being added to the Panthers roster hours before the game. Nelson’s first MCL outing did not go as planned as he walked two batters and allowed three hits, leading to three Vikings runs which tied the ballgame at 10. Despite giving up the lead, he kept his composure on the mound and recorded a strikeout with the bases loaded to strand the go-ahead runner on third base.
With the game tied going into the ninth inning, even after giving up a six-run lead, Valdez treated the situation just as he does any other.
“Stress is part of the job,” Valdez said. “I had no words for the team after the bottom of the eighth; they knew the score and I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on them. The players feed off my energy, so I just stayed relaxed and just ran out to the third base coaching box like I do every inning, and the vibe just carried over to the team.”
After Vikings reliever Mike Rios quickly retired the first two hitters in the top of the ninth, Pat McGowan (Kalamazoo Valley CC/Frankfort, Ill.) would draw a walk. He would reach second on a wild pitch, setting the stage for Maurey Garrett (Heartland CC/Flossmoor, Ill.) to single home the game-winning run.
Cole Blatchford (Air Force Academy/Highlands Ranch, Colo.) moved from third base to the mound to record the save. He would get two quick outs, and it looked to be smooth sailing for the Panthers. However, the Vikings would not go down without a fight, as the next two batters reached on singles, putting the game-tying and game-winning runs on the basepaths.
But just as it looked like the Vikings would tie the ballgame once again, Shane Peisker (John A. Logan College/Hammond, Ind.) made a diving catch on a Gerald Powell sinking line drive to save the day for the Panthers.
“There was nothing to be said after the catch,” Blatchford said. “It was just an incredible play.”
Now that the Panthers finally have their first win in the books, they're looking to build upon their newfound momentum.
“It feels good to finally get that first win,” Blatchford said. “It was hanging over our heads for a long time, now our job is to keep the momentum going over the coming weeks.”
After an off-day tomorrow, the Panthers will take the field against the Vikings once again on Monday, this time at Howie Minas Field at 12:00 p.m. You can catch the game on the Crestwood Panthers Broadcasting Network with Ryan Zimmerman delivering the play-by-play call, available via Facebook Live on the Crestwood Panthers Facebook page.