Niksch Throws a Gem, Rewards Panthers With Sixth Win in a Row and Playoff Spot

08/01/2023 10:48 AM -


Contact: Nick Kane

Highland High School

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Highland, IN- JULY 30-For the first time since 2021, the Indiana Panthers will be playing in the playoffs. This is Head Coach Deandre Gilmore’s first taste of the playoffs in his career in the Northern League. The Panthers out of nowhere caught fire at the perfect time and officially clinched a spot in the dance with the Sunday 3-0 win versus the Northwest Indiana Oilmen.

The story of the game was the dominant start from Panthers’ righty Hunter Niksch. Niksch left a couple baserunners on in the first inning, but cruised through the remainder of the game. 

“I did not feel much pressure because I was confident we were going to clinch a spot. With the guys we had in the lineup and the way we have been playing, I knew I was going to get enough run support.”

Niksch has arguably been the ace of this team so it comes to no surprise that he was given the ball for a game of that magnitude. This start is only some additional success to Niksch’s incredibly successful season. The all star pitcher not only noted how special this season has been for him, but also how special this Panthers team is.

“It felt good to get the ball in a big spot like that. I have been throwing the ball well all summer and it is rewarding to have it show on a big stage. This season overall has been very special with the quality baseball this team has been playing as well as all the new faces I have met throughout the year.”

Niksch, knowing what exactly was on the line, delivered in his start by going the full seven that were played. In his win, he allowed no runs on just four singles and struckout eight.

The Panthers continued the trend of putting up some runs in the first inning. The Panthers got some base runners off of star pitcher Brandon Laux as George Bilecki continued his effective week by lacing a double to bring in the first run of the game. The Panthers then used a wild pitch to their advantage for their second run of the inning. 

The offense was not as dominant as it has been for the last couple games of the homestand, but they added some more in the seventh when the red-hot Josh Williams pieced up a double to make it 3-0. 

This all around solid win gifted Deandre Gilmore’s squad a spot in the playoffs. Gilmore praised the team’s effort all season, but especially recently. Gilmore is confident in his group and can see them succeeding in a playoff format like the one the Northern League possesses. 

“I feel great and the team is very confident. They know they can go out there and win two straight. All the teams are very good so it will be a tough task, but we are up for it.”

Gilmore has no intention of this being a one-and-done run in the playoffs. Like we saw in this game, Gilmore thinks pitching is the team's strength that can give them the advantage in the postseason. 

“As a whole, we are all confident in what we can do, especially with our pitching being the most consistent aspect of our team. If the pitching is consistent, we can make a run in the playoffs.”

The Panthers will come back to Highland to take on the only team in the Northern League that is hotter than them as well as a possible preview for round one of the playoffs. The Lake County Corn Dogs, winners of eight straight, will travel to Highland Tuesday, August 1.