06/18/2018 12:10 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – June 17, 2018 – The Crestwood Panthers could not finish the job during their Sunday doubleheader as they lost both games to the Northwest Indiana Oilmen 8-0 and 6-5.
In game one, the Panthers were plagued by their inability to throw strikes as starter Dan Cryan (South Suburban/Orland Park, Ill.) and reliever Malik Binns (Waubonsee CC/Bolingbrook, Ill.) combined for 12 walks, including five in the first inning alone, on only six hits. On top of their patience at the plate, the Oilmen benefitted from another strong start from Christian Howell who pitched five innings allowing just two hits and three walks, striking out four as he cruised to his third win on the season.
The second game proved a lot more competitive as the two teams traded leads throughout the seven innings played. The two teams combined for two ties and two lead changes as at no point did either team lead by more than two runs.
The Oilmen took an early lead as a Cory Krolikowski single put them in front 1-0 in the second inning. They would continue to apply pressure by loading the bases with no outs in the third inning, but Panthers starter Stephen Gilbertsen (Illinois State/Chesterton, Ind.) tossed three consecutive strikeouts to keep the Oilmen from adding to their lead.
“Stephen has been great for us,” Panthers manager Isaac Valdez said. “His arm talent is fantastic. He was able to pitch really well today against an excellent hitting team. He still has a lot to learn about how to get guys out at this level, but his skill is undebatable.”
The Panthers cracked the scoreboard for the first time on the day when Pat McGowan (Kalamazoo Valley CC/Frankfort, Ill.) reached on an error which scored Cole Blatchford (Air Force Academy/Highlands Ranch, Colo.). They would take their first lead three batters later following a Blake Soria (South Mountain CC/Chicago, Ill.) two-run single.
The Oilmen would get a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Nate Montgomery slugged a solo home run, his MCL leading fourth, cutting the Panther lead in half. However, the very next half inning would see the Panthers replenish their two-run advantage after Brian Vance (Saint Joseph’s (Pa.)/Chicago, Ill.) reached on a bases-loaded infield single. The Panthers opened up the top of the sixth with four consecutive singles, but as they have done on multiple occasions this season, they left the bases loaded.
This would prove costly as Tyler Kenjic would hit a long home run to left field off Gilbertsen to tie the ballgame 4-4. That would be the last batter Gilbertsen would face, as he exited after 5 2/3 innings surrendering four runs (two earned) and seven hits, striking out eight and walking just one. Andrew Stone (Undecided/Chicago Heights, Ill.) would enter in relief and retire the next Oilmen hitter.
The Panthers would threaten again in the top of the seventh by getting a runner to third base with two outs, and it looked like they would be held scoreless when Maurey Garrett (Heartland CC/Flossmoor, Ill.) hit a groundball to shortstop. But, a throwing error by CJ Deshazer enabled Garrett to reach base and push across the go-ahead run.
Blatchford would move from third base to the mound to try and lock down his second save of the year, but he ran into early trouble. Two consecutive Oilmen singles put the tying and winning runs on base, but Blatchford rebounded by recording a strikeout. The next batter would reach on an error, putting the pressure squarely on the Panthers defense. Blatchford proved he would not be overmatched by the moment though, as he struck out the next hitter and got the Oilmen down to their final strike.
It looked like the game would be over as Blatchford forced a weak groundball to shortstop, but the error bug reared its ugly head as Michael Ruffolo (Rockhurst/Norridge, Ill.) committed a throwing error when trying to force out the runner at second base, and the winning run crossed home plate, sealing the Panthers 13th loss.
As the losses continue to pile up, Valdez acknowledged that serious changes need to be made.
“We just have to rally around the concept of playing smart baseball,” Valdez said. “This is what I stressed before the second game started. That happened in the first inning, we made a mistake on the basepaths and I made a change right away. A lot of Panther players have not been as heady as they need to be, and I can’t stand around and let that happen on a consistent basis every single day. I’m planning on making changes as they need to happen.”
The Panthers have the day off on Monday, but they return to the diamond on Tuesday as they host the Joliet Generals at Howie Minas Field at 4:00 p.m. You can catch all the action on the Crestwood Panthers Broadcast Network as Sam Oppenheim will join Ryan Zimmerman on the call.