07/15/2021 10:39 PM -
Crestwood, Ill. – July 15, 2021 – Through five innings on Thursday night, morale for the Crestwood Panthers (13-13) was at an all-time low.
The Panthers trailed the Chicago American Giants (13-11) 5-0, and had already entered action with a three-game losing streak. The offense, averaging just 1 1/2 runs per game during the slide, seemed destined for further struggles. Simply put, it was a game that had seemed out of reach knowing the deficit and the team’s issues at the plate.
In miraculous fashion, though, Crestwood continued to live up to its never-say-die legacy, forging a season-defining comeback, and in the end, beating the Giants 8-6.
It all began in the top of the sixth inning, when, with one out, Maurey Garrett (University of Northwestern Ohio / Homewood, Ill.) launched a two-RBI double to right field. The hit, coming on a full count, sparked a rally that saw three more runs score via a wild pitch, and RBI singles from both Donavan Noble (South Suburban College / Chicago, Ill.) and Dino Biggers (Illinois Wesleyan University / Naperville, Ill.). In a matter of a half-inning, the Panthers erased a five-run deficit, and from there, never looked back.
“Maurey started everything off with that big hit,” manager Isaac Valdez said. “And that’s something we’ve been missing all season, really. We’ve had consistent issues with two-out hits and runners left on base. It was great to see the guys come through tonight, and make an adjustment.”
In the eighth, Crestwood was clinging to a fragile one-run lead, and with two outs, Gannon Andrews (Purdue University Northwest / Portage, Mich.) launched a base-hit into the right-center field gap, plating a crucial insurance run in Hayden Matulich (Purdue University Northwest / San Jose, Calif.). Valdez was especially pleased with Andrews’ approach, as his two-out hit made quite the impact late.
“Gannon’s hit was huge for us,” Valdez said. “He came through for us with two outs, which is something we’ve struggled with, and found a spot in right-center to give us some breathing room late in the game.”
On the mound, MCL All-Star Justin Schassburger (Anderson University / Dyer, Ind.) dealt four innings of two-run baseball, limiting the potent American Giants’ offensive attack early on. In relief, Richie LaCien (Lawrence University / Mokena, Ill.) posted one of his best performances of the season, lasting 3 1/3 innings and surrendering just one run.
“Justin battled for us and kept us in the game early,” Valdez said. “Richie found the strike zone, and his ability to locate his offspeed pitches really helped him. He got those pitches over for strikes, which kept them off balance throughout the night.”
The win snaps the Panthers’ three-game losing streak, and places the team back at the .500 mark with one game to go before the MCL All-Star break. Crestwood will look to enter the break with a winning record on Saturday, as they oppose the MCL Minutemen from Playfield Park in Crestwood. Coverage begins at 1 P.M. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.