05/30/2021 9:16 PM -
Crestwood, Ill. – May 30, 2021 – The first two innings of the Panthers’ season provided an encouraging glimpse at the team’s 2021 potential.
Donovan Noble (South Suburban / Chicago, Ill.), after being hit by a pitch, stole a base, then scored via a Tyler Schultz (Purdue University Northwest / Hobart, Ind.) sacrifice fly. On the mound, starter Bennett Wogan (Dominican University / Momence, Ill.) put together back-to-back scoreless frames to begin his outing. Crestwood looked primed to immediately build off last season’s success. Unfortunately, however, the Joliet Generals rallied for 11 runs in two innings to defeat Crestwood 11-1 in game one, then took down the Panthers once more 7-4.
“It wasn’t the start to the season we wanted,” manager Isaac Valdez said. “What we saw today, though, did not fully explain who we are. We have some talented high school pitchers set to join us following the end of their season. So, once we have our full crew, we’ll have more depth and we’ll be happy with where we’re at.”
In game two, the Panthers did not go down without a fight. Trailing 7-0 entering the final inning of play, Crestwood rallied to score four runs and had the tying run on deck before recording their final out. Riley Beck (Purdue University Northwest / Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Gannon Andrews (Purdue University Northwest / Portage, Mich.) and Jake Margolick (Kalamazoo College / Highland Park, Ill.) each posted RBIs in the effort.
“We finished game two with the tying run in the on-deck circle,” Valdez said. “That’s all you could ask for when you’re down 7-0. We fought and made it interesting near the end.”
On the mound, both Gabe Halaby (University of Chicago / Monument, Colo.) and Dino Biggers (Illinois Wesleyan / Naperville, Ill.) threw scoreless baseball and served as bright spots on what was otherwise a tough day pitching-wise.
“We’re missing quite a few pitchers right now,” Valdez said. “On paper, I’m really, really excited about this team. It’s just going to be a tough week because of our lack of pitching right now.”
For reference, the Panthers began their historic 2020 season with a 1-5 record before turning it around near the end of the year. Valdez expressed concern about this pattern repeating in 2021.
“I really don’t want us to start out slow like we did last year,” Valdez said. “I hope that we could put it together on the mound, because I know that we could definitely hit the baseball. So, if we could be .500 in 10 days, I think we’ll be fine as a team.”
The Panthers will continue their quest for win number one as they oppose the Southland Vikings on Monday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 P.M. at Dowling Park and can be streamed on the Panthers Facebook Live page.