Panthers show resolve in key road sweep of Riverside
Timing is everything and while Royal Valley’s baseball team may have been inconvenienced by the weather last week, it ended up working out perfectly for the Panthers.
In Wathena, Riverside and Royal Valley resumed their league doubleheader precisely a week after starting it on Monday. Before the delay, the Panthers were leading and started the day that way before ending it in the same manner, picking up the sweep with a pair of 13-7 and 6-4 victories.
Prior to Monday, the Panthers’ last series sweep came more than a month ago in early April, also against a league foe (ACCHS), and RV coach Scott Ternes was particularly pleased to see that outcome at this time of year.
“It was very nice. Going in it was going to be a question mark. We had an injury that second game against Jeff West and we were missing our third baseman (Derek Linn),” Ternes said. “We kind of had to finagle some guys around and had some guys playing third who don’t usually play third and they did a good job of responding and helping us out.”
Early on, things didn’t look as rosy for Royal Valley. While the team started the resumed game one with a 4-2 lead, Riverside quickly took it back when action picked up in the bottom of the third.
While an error and RBI singles had accounted for all of the runs up to that point, the Cyclones went ahead thanks to a pair of RBI doubles and a pair of errors.
After that, though, Riverside was held scoreless and Royal Valley proceeded to eat away at the home team’s 7-4 lead over the final four innings.
Ternes said he talked to his team about who to pitch to start the game, but using Derrick Barger on the mound added some pressure to the defense already dealing with the absence of Linn.
Following the Cyclones’ five run outburst, Ternes had to make some changes and brought in Garrett Schultz in relief and things seemed to settle down from there.
“It was just kind of figuring out you lose a sprocket off your wheel and every once in a while you’ll slip. We slipped and then we got back around to the good stuff and got after it,” Ternes said.
The Panthers closed the gap to one run in the fourth inning as an error plated two runs with two outs and the team took advantage of a similar situation in the fifth inning, getting two more runs on four errors in total from Riverside.
In the sixth inning, Hayden Fenske scored on a passed ball and Royal Valley took advantage of errors again to get two more, while Noah Hart capped things off with an RBI single to give RV a 12-7 lead that stemmed from some patience at the plate.
“We kind of waited and made them throw fastballs and took advantage of that, put the ball into play and made them make outs,” Ternes said.
Fenske came through again in the seventh inning with a two-out double and Brooks McClane followed with an RBI single to plate the final run for the Panthers, while Schultz worked a near-perfect seventh inning to close out the 13-7 victory for Royal Valley.
P: RV- Linn, Barger, Schultz and McClane; Riv.- Keller, Bember and Ge. Shue.
2B: RV- Barger, Ehrhart and Fenske; Riv.- Rupe, Gr. Shue and Ge. Shue.
SB: RV- Barger (2), Lux, Ehrhart and Schultz; Riv.- Q. Munger (2), Mitchell (2) and Brown.
Game two saw Noah Hart on the mound for the Panthers and for most of the season that has meant good things for the team. It was once again the case as the offense backed up the ace early after falling behind 1-0.
In response to a sacrifice fly that gave the Cyclones that lead, the Panthers answered with a four-run second inning that gave Hart more than enough run support.
“Noah did a great job Monday night and the kids do have a ton of confidence with him up on the mound,” Ternes said.
Schultz, Nick Ehrhart and Fenske led off the inning with three consecutive singles that loaded up the bases. McClane made it four straight and added an RBI in the process.
Then, Kyle Stithem reached on an error to bring in another run while Tim Martin Jr. piled on another RBI single. Two batters later, Zack Lux hit into an RBI groundout that gave Royal Valley a 4-1 lead.
Both teams stranded some runners in the following innings before the Panthers struck again in the fourth inning. Lux got things started, drawing a walk with one out, while Hart followed with a single and Schultz then sent a ball a good distance into left field for a sacrifice fly. Ehrhart then doubled to drive in Hart and give RV a 6-1 advantage.
That stretch seemed to wake up the Cyclones’ bats, though, as the home team scored two runs on three singles in the bottom of the fourth to close the gap to three runs, 6-3.
Riverside threatened again in the sixth inning and got an RBI double to plate one more run, but Hart shut the door with authority in the seventh inning to cap off the complete game victory.
Hart ran his pitch count up in the fifth and sixth inning and Ternes noted he wasn’t going to let him throw more than 15 pitches in the final inning. The junior pitcher quickly eased his coach’s nerves and needed just 12 pitches to record all outs himself (including two strikeouts) in the bottom of the seventh to wrap up a 6-4 victory and the sweep for the Panthers.
Royal Valley (9-10) will now look to complete its series against Jeff West at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in Hoyt with just a few short innings remaining. Then, the team will get set to host regional play next Monday and Ternes noted he is excited heading into postseason play and hoping his team can keep up this level of play.
“They were playing out of position a little bit, but they still made plays. We had very few errors. We were knocking the ball down and mentally we were there for 12 innings,” Ternes said. “We proved Monday night we can put two together and win some close ones if we need to, we can come from behind if we need to.”
P: RV- Hart and McClane; Riv.- Wenpt, Gr. Shue and Ge. Shue.
2B: RV- Ehrhart; Riv.- C. Munger, Keller and Brown.
SB: RV- Martin Jr., Barger, Lux and Hart; Riv.- Q. Munger, C. Munger and Rupe.