Panthers use small ball to get the better of the Dragons and sweep Valley Falls
Winning is always fun, but the way teams win can also add to that and RV baseball coach Scott Ternes couldn’t help but be pleased with the way the Panthers won a pair of games against Valley Falls last Thursday night.
Royal Valley executed its game plan to perfection, pulling off a pair of close wins (4-2 and 5-4) to sweep its home doubleheader against the Dragons.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the guys came out. We finally put it all together. We played solid defense. We had our pitchers working hard and we had just enough offense to get the job done twice,” Ternes said.
Pitcher Garrett Schultz may have gotten into trouble at times in the first game of the series, but more often than not he worked out of it, starting with an inning-ending fly out in the top of the first with two runners on base.
In the bottom of the second, it looked like RV might take a lead as Brooks McClane reached on an error and Schultz singled in the next at-bat, putting runners at first and second with no outs. The Panthers went down in order after that, though, and Valley Falls proceeded to take advantage.
The Dragons got a lead-off single to start the third inning before Schultz hit two batters to load up the bases with one out. Zack Lux made a big catch for the second out of the inning and his throw to home forced the runner at third to hold, but the next Valley Falls batter was hit by a pitch to bring in the first run of the game right before Schultz induced an inning-ending groundout.
Royal Valley didn’t sweat that deficit too much, as the team went to work in the bottom half of the inning and executed some small ball to take a lead it would not give back.
After the first out of the inning, Derrick Barger lined a double into centerfield and Lux placed a perfect bunt down the first base line that the Dragons’ misplayed, allowing Barger to score and tie the game.
Noah Hart then followed with an infield single before Brooks McClane laid down another textbook bunt that loaded up the bases with no outs.
“That’s something we work on a lot in practice. That’s something that we emphasize, the small ball game and how do we generate one run in a tight ball game,” Ternes said. “It’s just the character of those guys, the unselfish team attitude that we have.”
Schultz drew a walk after that to bring in another run, putting RV up 2-1, and Nick Ehrhart came through with a sacrifice fly while Hayden Fenske had an RBI single up the middle to bring in the final run of the inning and give the Panthers a 4-1 lead.
Ternes noted the bottom of the line-up as a whole stepped up and came through with some big plays in Thursday’s doubleheader.
That third inning was key, as the Panthers made very little noise on offense the rest of the way, leaving the defense to handle business to lock up the win.
Royal Valley did just that as McClane negated an error to start the fourth inning, throwing out a runner trying to steal second to stop a threat before it could start.
Then, with Lux coming in to relieve Schultz in the fifth inning, things got a little wild. After a lead-off single, Lux got a quick pick off at first to empty the bases, but the Dragons still loaded them up with one out after one walk was issued and two batters were hit by pitches.
Schultz helped his pitching compatriot get out of the jam as he made a catch in centerfield and quickly relayed it home to catch a runner trying to score and end the inning with no damage done yet again.
Valley Falls broke through in the sixth inning, getting an RBI groundout, but that was all the offense it could muster after the first two runners reached base safely.
Barger then came on to close out the game for the Panthers and while he gave up two singles in the seventh inning, he forced three groundouts to wrap up the game, including one in which Fenske made a diving stop and threw to first from his knees to record the final out of the game and secure the 4-2 victory for Royal Valley.
P: RV- Schultz, Lux, Barger and McClane; VF- Jobbins and Sherretts.
2B: RV- Barger; VF- Sherretts.
SB: VF- Gast.
Royal Valley didn’t wait nearly as long to take a lead in game two. In fact, the Panthers jumped ahead 1-0 in the first inning following back-to-back singles by Hart and McClane, which led to an error that allowed Hart to score the first run.
The Panthers continued to work out of jams on the defensive side as well, getting out of a bases-loaded situation in the second with a double play at second and at home to prevent the tying run from scoring.
“We were getting ourselves into pretty big situations where they had base runners and they could have done some serious damage and our defense came through, held solid and got the job done Thursday night,” Ternes said.
While RV succeeded in that scenario, a tie game was not something the team could hold off forever as the Panthers and Dragons would soon be locked in for the long haul.
Valley Falls plated its first run in the third inning with an RBI single, but it wasn’t long before Royal Valley went back ahead as the home team did work with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Barger drew a walk and Hart reached on an error with two outs before a passed ball allowed Barger to score. McClane then followed by drawing a walk himself and Schultz delivered some run support with an RBI double that gave Royal Valley a 3-1 lead.
The Dragons closed the gap with another RBI single in the top of the sixth and then knotted things up again at 3-3 following a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh inning.
Despite that, the Panthers looked to be cooking up another rally in the seventh inning following back-to-back singles by Lux and Hart. However, a botched box steal led to Lux being thrown out at home and the inning ended with a harmless strikeout, meaning the teams were heading into extra innings.
Valley Falls wasted no time trying to end the game in the top of the eighth, as a walk and a single set up the Dragons for an RBI groundout that put the visitors up 4-3.
With the Panthers needing a run to keep the game going, the team got a single from Schultz to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning before Ehrhart reached on an error, which allowed him to score the tying run.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Panthers turned to small ball once again as Barger drew a walk, advanced to second after the first out and then stole third to put the winning run within 90 feet of home plate with just one out. Following a walk drawn by Hart, the Dragons got a strikeout to leave the Panthers just one out and little room for error.
Schutlz came through again, though, driving a ball into right field for the game-winning, walk-off RBI single that locked up a 5-4 win and a series sweep for the Panthers.
“I think this is a big boost that’s going to help them in their minds realize that they are a good team and can be a good team if they just do the things that they need to do and Thursday night proved that’s possible,” Ternes said.
Royal Valley (3-3) will look to keep the momentum rolling as the team now gets set to face Santa Fe Trail in another home doubleheader on Tuesday starting at 4:30 p.m.
P: RV- Hart, Barger and McClane; VF- Sherretts and Coleman.
2B: VF- Sherretts.
SB: RV- Barger (2), Lux (2) and Hart (3); VF- Coleman (2), Ch. Gast (3) and Co. Gast.