After Six Lead Changes, Panthers Emerge With Defining Victory

06/17/2021 9:14 PM -

Crestwood, Ill. – June 17, 2021 – It began as a simple 2-0 lead for the Crestwood Panthers (8-7) in their opening frame against the Southland Vikings (4-9).

Eventually, the Panthers had commanded a seemingly insurmountable 9-4 advantage, one that was held down on the mound by Benny Guevara (Emerson College / Hobart, Ind.).  

In the end, however, both teams continuously traded blows throughout the slugfest, exchanging the lead six times in total. Crestwood would, in turn, emerge victorious, earning a season-defining 12-11 win.  

Crestwood’s offense did all of the heavy lifting on Thursday. The top two spots in the lineup, occupied by Chazz Clark (Xavier University of Louisiana / Chicago, Ill.) and Hayden Matulich (Purdue University-Northwest / San Jose, Calif.) combined for eight hits (four apiece), and drove in five runs. Sean Lynch (Eastern Illinois / Indian Creek, Ill.), Kevin Coe Jr. (Eastern Kentucky / Chicago, Ill.) and Jaylon Nauden (Butler University / Olympia Fields, Ill.) each added multi-hit performances. And Gannon Andrews (Purdue University-Northwest / Portage, Mich.) posted three RBIs as well. Manager Isaac Valdez could not be more pleased with his team’s output at the plate.  

“Our guys swung it well today,” Valdez said. “We’ve been a little inconsistent with our bats over the past few games, so it’s nice to snap out of it, finally.”  

On the mound, Guevara dealt four-plus strong innings, recording six strikeouts in his outing. Justin Johnson (Marian University / Cedar Lake, Ind.) then shut the door, striking out four Vikings hitters in 4 ⅔ innings of work. Valdez also praised his pitchers for battling throughout the game, and stymying the opposition when it mattered most. 

“Benny battled for us today, after starting out a bit rough,” Valdez said. “And Justin, in his first appearance, really did a great job in closing it out for us.” 

Valdez was most encouraged, though, by his team’s resilience. After losing the lead countless times, the Panthers were continually unfazed, and willed their way to an impressive victory. 

“To their credit, these guys never give up,” Valdez said. “And, every year, no matter the group, the Panthers have been known for this. It’s our team identity, and it really showed here tonight.”  

Crestwood will return to action on Sunday afternoon, as they oppose the Chicago American Giants from Gouwens Park. Coverage begins at 12:00 P.M. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.