Panthers' Early Lead Squandered Late

Lost Lead Late
07/06/2019 3:03 PM -

Crestwood, Ill. – July 6, 2019 – For their first six innings of Saturday afternoon's game against the Joliet Generals, the Crestwood Panthers were poised for a well-deserved victory. And even after a seventh inning that saw Joliet score three unanswered runs to tie the contest, optimism surrounded a resilient Panthers team. Unfortunately, however, a five-run Generals' ninth inning proved to be quite costly, as Crestwood, in the end, fell 9-4. 

The Panthers jumped on the board right out of the gate, scoring two runs courtesy of a Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) sacrifice fly, and a Rhay Street (Southwest Baptist University / Olympia Fields, Ill.) RBI double. On the mound, meanwhile, Connor McCloskey (Beloit College / Chicago, Ill.) spun an impressive 3.1 innings of one-run baseball, striking out six, while surrendering five walks. Thus, from the outset, the Panthers took control of the game early, and set the table for an encouraging team win. 

Joliet, however, had other plans. striking for three runs in the top half of the seventh inning. With two hit by pitches, a walk, and a single given up to begin the frame, the Generals took full advantage of the opportunity, finding a way to tie the game. Manager Isaac Valdez was not happy with the continuous chances that his team gave to Joliet. 

"We gave them too many runners without throwing them strikes," said Valdez. "It was a combination of walking guys and hitting batters, and when you give anybody five or six outs per inning, you're bound to get burned. We got away with it in a couple of different innings with some key double plays, but you're not going to make a living doing that."

Encouragingly enough, the Panthers maintained their tie with Joliet entering the ninth inning, as a two-RBI Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove, Ill.) single in the top of the seventh would, in hindsight, serve as a key factor behind the game's deadlocked score. In the game's final frame, though, the Generals considerably broke through, scoring five runs in an inning that saw one walk, one hit by pitch, and one error. 

"We just can't allow them [the Generals] to reach base without being competitive," said Valdez. "We do that too often, and when that happens, the defense falls alseep and they're prone to errors. Usually when a team scores three or four runs in an inning, there are a couple of walks, maybe a hit batsmen, and an error involved. And that's what happened to us today." 

With a matchup scheduled against the DuPage County Hounds tomorrow, however, Valdez expressed confidence and encouragement, especially when considered the pitchers who are slated to toe the rubber. 

"Eddie Wilkins (University of Illinois-Springfield / Braidwood, Ill.) will start, and Ethan Soderna (Ohio Wesleyan University / Chicago, Ill.) will be available out of the bullpen. We'll also have Ethen Otstott (Prairie State College / Oak Forest, Ill.) ready to go, so we'll be armed for tomorrow. With them on the mound, hopefully we'll bring the bats to back them up." 

Coverage begins at 1 p.m. with Jon Zaghloul on the Panthers Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.