07/22/2021 8:43 PM -
Crestwood, Ill. – July 22, 2021 – Through five innings on Thursday night, the Crestwood Panthers (14-15) had trailed the Joliet Generals (15-10) by just two runs. Starting pitcher Justin Johnson (Marian University / Cedar Lake, Iowa) had provided a gutsy performance on the mound, and had greatly limited the Generals’ offensive attack.
Unfortunately, however, the flood gates opened in the sixth inning, as Crestwood allowed six unearned runs with two outs en route to a difficult 8-4 defeat.
The Panthers had recorded the first two outs of the inning without issue. Then, an error and two consecutive walks led to a Generals’ RBI single. After another error, which otherwise would have ended the inning, Joliet launched a three-run home run to right-center field, essentially ending any chance for a Crestwood comeback.
“The six unearned runs really hurt us,” manager Isaac Valdez said. “That said, our guys issued too many walks today, as well. We need to exhibit better control on the mound, and adjustments have to be made.”
At the plate, the Panthers managed to record only four hits. Michael Laudondo (Rockhurst University / Westchester, Ill.) posted his first multi-hit game of the season. And, Ronald Applewhite (Culver-Stockton College / Chicago, Ill.) continued his tear at the plate, adding a base-hit and two RBIs. Crestwood, though, did not score any runs until the sixth inning, when they trailed 8-0. Valdez was displeased with his team’s struggles at the plate, and demanded more from them moving forward.
“We only had one hit going into the sixth inning,” Valdez said. “We’re playing like the worst team in the league right now. We aren’t being aggressive at the plate; it seems like we’re just waiting for a two-strike count. That is not going to cut it.”
With the loss, and a win from the Southland Vikings, the Panthers’ lead for the final MCL playoff spot has shrunk to just 1 1/2 games. Following the All-Star Game, the Panthers’ cushion was 3 1/2 games. Valdez expressed concern about his team’s ability to hang on to the spot with just weeks left in the season.
“I think the Vikings are going to get hot, and they’re a very good squad,” Valdez said. “We’re trending down right now, and that has to change. We’re struggling at a bad time, and there are no excuses for this. We’ve had our lineup and pitching rotation set. Today, we just laid a goose egg.”
The Panthers will be back in action on Saturday afternoon, as they oppose the MCL Minutemen from Playfield Park. Coverage begins at 1:00 P.M. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.