Panthers Let Late Lead Slip Away Against Bobcats

06/16/2018 12:40 AM -

Bloomington, Ill. – June 16, 2018 – The Crestwood Panthers let a late lead slip away as they dropped a close game to the Bloomington Bobcats 5-4.  

Although the Panthers had chances to win throughout the game, they were plagued once again by their inability to hit with runners in scoring position and their costly errors in the field.  

Things started out inauspiciously for the Panthers.  A leadoff single and two errors put the Bobcats in position to open the scoring in the first inning, which they would do on a wild pitch.  Following a dropped third strike which allowed Bobcats shortstop Billy Mote to reach first base, Panthers manager Isaac Valdez came out of the dugout to argue the call and was promptly ejected by the home plate umpire.  Assistant coach Rich Ruffolo assumed managerial duties for the remainder of the game.  

After allowing two unearned runs in that opening frame, Panthers starting pitcher Ethan Klay (Lincoln Land CC/Springfield, Ill.) would get into a groove on the mound and dominate the Bobcats lineup.  He would not surrender another Bobcats run through his six innings of work, giving up just two hits and two walks striking out six over his start.  

“Ethan was absolutely phenomenal,” Ruffolo said.  “He had a two-pitch mix working and had everyone off-balance with it.  When he wanted to blow a guy away with a fastball, he could; he picked the perfect spots to utilize it.  He worked really well with Brian [Vance, the Panthers catcher] and they called a great game today.”  

The Panthers would crack the scoreboard in the third inning when a Michael Ruffolo (Rockhurst/Norridge, Ill.) brought home Evan Bell (Memphis/Oak Park, Ill.).  However, their big breakthrough came in the sixth when a Cole Blatchford (Air Force Academy/Highlands Ranch, Colo.) two-run home run to straightaway left field and a John Plattner (Lincoln Land CC/Chatham, Ill.) RBI infield single gave the Panthers a 4-2 lead.  

Yet the Panthers lead was short lived as the Bobcats came back to tie the ballgame in the seventh inning.  Torriun Towers (Claflin/Chicago, Ill.) came on for the Panthers to make his team debut and immediately recorded two quick outs.  But, he would load the bases on a single, double, and walk.  The next batter, Mote, would hit a groundball to first that could have been the third out, but Michael Jahnke (Coe College/Lansing, Ill.) misplayed the hop and the two runs came around to score.  

The Bobcats would break the tie with two outs in the eighth inning when Mitch Fairfield singled to left field and brought pinch hitter Tyler Thierry around to score.   

Despite giving up three runs (one earned), Ruffolo was very happy with his new reliever.

“I liked Torriun’s performance,” Ruffolo said.  “He looked good.  He came in with a really tough spot, threw strikes, he competed and gave us a chance.  That’s all you ask for.  Unfortunately, the error was made, but it didn’t affect Torriun.  I couldn’t ask for more in his first appearance.” 

The Panthers got the tying run to second base in the ninth inning and gave themselves a chance to tie the ballgame once again, but Michael Ruffolo was stranded 180 feet from home to seal the team’s twelfth loss on the MCL season.  

Keeping with the team’s tendencies, the Panthers left 13 runners on base and committed three errors, all of which would lead to Bobcats runs.  In order to buck the trend and get the season back on track, Ruffolo believes the team needs to improve upon their mental toughness.  

“With our entire team approach, our mental toughness has to change,” Ruffolo said.  “That’s both offensively and defensively.  We get to a point in the game where we get mentally weak, and that shows up in all facets of the game which is costing us these wins, like what happened today.”  

“In order to succeed you have to commit to the gameplan,” Ruffolo continued.  “For example, if either myself or Isaac [Valdez] calls for a bunt, somehow, some way they have to lay it down.  If we ask our guys to hit a ball to the right side to advance a runner, they have to get the job done.  Everybody in the lineup has had their chances and have had faults in their mentality, but once we figure those things out as individuals, we’re going to be a really tough team to beat.”  

The Panthers return to the diamond tomorrow for a Father’s Day doubleheader at Oil City Stadium against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen starting at 1:00 p.m.  Both of tomorrow’s games will be seven innings.  You can catch all the action on the Northwest Indiana Oilmen Broadcasting Network via Facebook Live, as Ryan Zimmerman will join the Oilmen broadcast team of Brandon Vickrey and Dan Harty on the call.