06/23/2018 12:30 AM -
Bloomington, Ill. – June 22, 2018 – It was a pitcher’s duel throughout, but the Bloomington Bobcats produced enough offense to down the Crestwood Panthers in extra innings 2-1.
The Panthers offense went dormant against a dominant Bobcats pitching staff, as they whiffed 14 times while only mustering five hits.
John Plattner (Lincoln Land CC/Chatham, Ill.) took the mound for the Panthers, making his first pitching appearance this season. He would go on to blank the Bobcats in his four-inning start, only allowing two hits and four walks striking out four. Plattner would also go 1-2 at the plate hitting for himself.
“John was pounding the strike zone,” Panthers manager Isaac Valdez said. “I was very impressed with how John threw the ball. He proved to me that he deserves to pitch again this season.”
Jackson Shepherd (Mesa CC/Channahon, Ill.) would enter the game in relief of Plattner in the fifth inning and continue where the starter left off. Shepherd would give up an unearned run after a groundball to third base resulted in two errors and the first Bobcats run, but his 5 1/3 innings of work kept the Panthers in the game. He would allow two runs (one earned) on five hits striking out five.
“This is the third outing in a row where Jackson has thrown this many solid innings in relief,” Valdez said. “Each time I’ve called upon him to go this far he’s been outstanding. He does a great job mixing his speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. If he has one or two more outings like this, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be considered for the all-star game.”
Plattner and Shepherd were matched on the mound by Bobcats ace Zach Frey, who had recently returned from a 10-day contract with the Northwoods League. He would almost go the distance, pitching 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits and just one walk striking out an impressive 11 batters. He would be pulled with one out in the ninth inning as Nick Watson would replace him, going the final 1 2/3 innings and collecting the win.
The Panthers would not crack the scoreboard until the eighth inning. Blake Soria (South Mountain CC/Chicago, Ill.) led off the inning with a four-pitch walk, and Andrew Stone (Undecided/Chicago Heights, Ill.) would advance him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Following a Will Thomas (Alcorn State/South Holland, Ill.) single, Shepherd helped out his own cause, taking himself off the hook for a loss by bunting home Soria and tying the game at one.
Evan Bell (Memphis/Oak Park, Ill.) would give the Panthers a chance to take the lead in the top of the ninth when he ripped a one-out double to the left-field wall, prompting the Bobcats pitching change. Watson would strand Bell on second base and give the Bobcats a chance at a walk-off win. However, Shepherd would do the same as Watson and leave the winning run on second base and send the game to extra innings.
The Panthers would go down quietly in the top of the tenth, and after Shepherd got the first out of the inning, Bobcats shortstop Billy Mote singled to right field and stole second. That set the stage for designated hitter Chris Monroe to score Mote on a base hit, sealing the Bobcats win.
Over the course of the game, the Panthers were overmatched at the plate. Manager Isaac Valdez was unhappy with the team’s approach at the plate.
“I give all the credit in the world to Bloomington’s starter,” Valdez said. “He pitched incredibly well today, but we really need to improve our baseball IQ. The Bobcats were playing us to pull the entire game, they gave us 150 feet between the center and right fielders, and their second baseman was playing behind the bag. We just weren’t able to adjust and drive the ball to the right side and take advantage of what we were given.”
The Panthers will take the field once again tomorrow as they take on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Indiana at 6:10 p.m. Ryan Zimmerman will have the play-by-play call on the Crestwood Panthers Broadcasting Network via Facebook Live.