08/04/2020 6:37 PM -
Crestwood, Ill. – August 4, 2020 – As the 2020 MCL postseason race begins to heat up, the Crestwood Panthers (14-11) have made it known that they deserve to be apart of the conversation. And on Tuesday afternoon at Howie Minas Field, the Panthers overcame an early 2-0 deficit to not only defeat the MCL Minutemen (9-18) 11-2, but also, inch closer and closer to that elusive second-place position in the MCL standings.
The contest was mostly quiet until the sixth, as the Minutemen had struck for only two unearned runs off starting pitcher Jacob Young (Fairmont State University / Lisle, Ill.). Then, in typical Panthers fashion, a six-spot was posted in that sixth frame, as Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / South Holland, Ill) launched a three-run home run to left field to jumpstart the offense. Ronald Applewhite (Olney Central JC / Calumet City, Ill.) followed with an RBI single before Brett Riegler (University of Chicago / Downers Grove, Ill.) did the same. Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove Village, Ill.) also added an RBI sacrifice fly to fully complete the barrage.
“Well, Cam has to be the front-runner for Player of the Week at this point,” manager Isaac Valdez said. “He set the tone for us in that inning, and our lineup was especially deep today. Once they figured out [Jeremiah] Williams and laid off his change-up a little bit, we were able to pile up some hits together and continue to do what we do.”
From there, Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) tacked on an RBI double and Tim Fauth provided the game’s dagger, lining a two-run home run to deep left field in the ninth inning. As a team, Crestwood recorded 11 hits on Tuesday, making it the second-straight game in which the Panthers have had a double-digit hit performance.
That impressive offensive output was more than enough for the starter Young, who twirled six innings of shutout baseball. In relief, Kyle Ruppert (Saint Xavier University / Tinley Park, Ill.) dealt two shutout innings in his debut and Gus Gamboa (Oakton CC / Lemont, Ill.) contributed a scoreless final frame.
“Young definitely kept us in the ballgame early, and gave us enough time to figure things out at the plate,” Valdez said. “Ruppert did a fantastic job as well and he allowed us to score more runs at the plate to put the game away.”
With the win, the Panthers are now just two games in the loss column behind the MCL’s second-place spot in the standings. Valdez acknowledged that over the next eight days, a time span in which Crestwood faces the DuPage County Hounds five times, their postseason hopes could be determined.
“I wouldn’t want this to work out any other way,” Valdez said. “This is all in our hands. We just have to perform and the next eight days are truly going to define our season.”
The Panthers will oppose the Hounds on Wednesday afternoon at Andrean High School. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.