06/13/2018 7:00 AM -
Midlothian, Ill. – June 12, 2018 – The Crestwood Panthers had their opportunities to down the Northwest Indiana Oilmen in a game which lasted 15 innings, but they were unable to outlast the competition as they were defeated 7-6.
Throughout the game, the Panthers had many chances to drive in runs. In 15 innings played, there were 10 in which the Panthers had runners in scoring position. They were only able to plate runners in four of those chances, leaving 13 runners on base in the process.
The Panthers lack of situational hitting has come back to haunt them all season long, as today they struggled to produce the decisive hit in the later innings that would have given them the victory. In order for the team to improve, manager Isaac Valdez understands the players need to be more aware of their approach at the plate.
“The team’s baseball IQ really needs to improve,” Valdez said. “It’s just a matter of understanding the game within the game. We are not having intelligent approaches at the plate with runners in scoring position, the players are just letting the ball travel in the zone, swinging at bad first pitches and giving the pitcher the advantage. They have a general idea of what to do but they have not been executing, and that needs to change.”
Despite the Panthers inability to score key runs, the bullpen kept them in the game throughout. After starter Ethan Klay (Lincoln Land CC/Springfield, Ill.) was removed from the game having thrown 4.1 innings of three-run (one earned) ball, Andrew Stone (Undecided/Chicago Heights, Ill.), Jackson Shepherd (Mesa CC/Channahon, Ill.), and Daniel Nelson (UW-Parkside/Aurora, Ill.) picked up the slack and made it tough for Oilmen hitters during extra innings. In total, the three relievers would combine for 11 2/3 innings pitched allowing just two earned runs and two hits, striking out six.
Shepherd stood out specifically as he pitched six innings and allowing only one unearned run. He had a stretch between the eighth and 14th innings where he retired 14 consecutive batters.
“The bullpen is really stepping up,” Valdez said. “They’re throwing strikes, executing the game plan, and making it tough on the opposition. All of last week they were keeping us in games we should have won, now it’s the offense’s job to do their part.”
In addition to their woes at the plate, the Panthers also committed seven errors, gifting the Oilmen multiple scoring opportunities, of which they took full advantage. In the eighth inning, consecutive throwing errors by Cole Blatchford (Air Force Academy/Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and Brian Vance (Saint Joseph’s (Pa.)/Chicago, Ill.) gifted the Oilmen’s Nick Figus three free bases. He would score on a sacrifice fly by the very next batter to score the tying run.
Later, in the 14th inning, a Pat McGowan (Kalamazoo Valley CC/Frankfort, Ill.) error at first base allowed Jake Plastiak to reach second base. Alex Voss would later single him home to score the then go-ahead run.
After the game, Valdez challenged his players to take a look in the mirror and be honest with themselves not only about the loss today but their season as a whole thus far. He preached taking responsibility for their losing efforts and making serious changes in response.
“My job is to help these guys out before they go back to school in the fall,” Valdez said. “This includes being honest, meaning I need to tell them what they need to hear and not necessarily what they want to hear. I told them they need to improve their intelligence because that’s the biggest thing holding us back. Even if we’re only middle-of-the-pack in terms of IQ, we’ll win a lot of ballgames.
“I also emphasized the need to embrace the little things that will help us win,” Valdez added. “That means executing the hit-and-run, laying down the sacrifice bunt. They need to start executing in those aspects of the game, and that needs to start now.”
The Panthers take the field again tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. when they travel to Joliet to take on the Generals at Wayne L. King Jr. Field at Joliet Junior College. You can catch the game on the Joliet Generals YouTube channel where Ryan Zimmerman will join Sam Oppenheim on the call.