Panthers, Wildcats each manage to pick up a win in league baseball doubleheader
All signs pointed to Monday’s doubleheader between the Holton and Royal Valley baseball teams being a pretty evenly matched affair.
Both the Wildcats and Panthers sported similar records heading into the match-up with each team having its hits and misses so far this year.
Monday’s games were a microcosm of that as both teams struggled against the other’s ace, leading the teams to split the series with Holton winning 11-2 in game one and Royal Valley closing out the doubleheader with a 7-1 victory.
As well as Justin Rieschick pitched for the Wildcats in the opening game, it was some defensive miscues from Royal Valley that proved to be the turning point early in the contest.
Rieschick scored following a single by Indie Allen to open up the game before the Wildcats did most of their damage in the second inning.
Brady Mulroy singled with one out in the bottom of the second and Justin Pool then drew a walk to set up Levi Martin’s RBI double. After Rieschick drew a walk, Pool then scored on a wild pitch before an error allowed both Martin and Rieschick to score to give the Wildcats a 5-0 lead.
“I think it’s just like any game,” HHS coach Joe Purcell said. “They made some really crucial errors at crucial times that allowed the inning to continue. They gave us five outs to work with in one inning and you just can’t do that.”
After Allen reached on an error and Derek Haverkamp was hit by a pitch, a wild pitch allowed another run to score before another error brought in two more runs.
Prior to that, Luis Butto drew a walk and after Mulroy reached on that error he then got caught in a pickle to allow Butto to steal home to put Holton up 9-0.
“If we make the outs that we need to, the score’s tied 2-2 at the end of the seventh,” RV coach Scott Ternes said.
While Derek Linn was strong in relief on the mound for Royal Valley, allowing just two runs after that second inning, nine runs proved to be more than enough run support for Rieschick.
Royal Valley had its chances to close the gap, but Holton minimized the damage each time. After singles from Garrett Schultz and Hayden Fenske plated one run in the top of the fourth, a fly ball out and strikeout ended that threat to keep the Wildcats ahead by eight runs.
The Panthers then loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth inning, with Barger drawing a walk to bring in one run and make it 9-2, but Rieschick struck out Zack Lux on three pitches in the next at-bat to get out of the jam.
“When you’ve got your ace on the mound, there’s a different confidence in your team. I see it when Justin’s on the mound for us. I’m sure they see it when Hart’s on the mound for them,” Purcell noted.
Holton may have been fueled by that confidence in the bottom half of the sixth as Mason Alford drew a leadoff walk and Butto then singled before Justin Pool reached on an error that allowed pinch runner Aaron Bain to score and Rieschick followed with an RBI single to put HHS up 11-2 for good.
P: HHS- Rieschick, Butto and Pool; RV- Schultz, Linn and McClane, Schultz.
2B: HHS- Martin; RV- Fenske.
SB: HHS- Butto (2) and Coufal; RV- Hart, McClane and Fenske.
Game two saw a complete role reversal of the two teams as Panther ace Noah Hart kept the Wildcats in check the second time around as the team slowly pulled away to salvage a split.
After a quiet first inning, Nick Ehrhart got RV going in the second inning with a leadoff walk. Brooks McClane was then hit by a pitch and Linn came through with an RBI double in the next at-bat. Tim Martin Jr. then had a less flashy, but equally productive sacrifice fly that put Royal Valley ahead 2-0 early in the game.
With two outs in the third, Lux then stole a base after drawing a walk and Schultz brought him in with an RBI single to add to the visitors’ lead.
“That’s exactly the team that we are. We’re not a ‘group bunches of hits together and score 10 runs’ type of team. It’s kind of built that way over the last couple of years and it’s kind of how we know what we are,” Ternes said. “We put a guy on, move him over, sacrifice him over, bring them in one at a time, two at a time and then just play solid defense in the other half of the inning.”
Hart continued to cruise on the mound and put the ball in the right place and the Panther offense continued to back him up. After loading up the bases with no outs in the fourth inning, Derrick Barger placed a ball perfectly in the outfield for an RBI single.
That hit could have led to more runs, but Allen fired the ball home to catch McClane as he was trying to score for the second out of the inning and HHS pitcher Derek Haverkamp then struck out Lux to end the threat and keep Holton in a manageable 4-0 hole.
After the big play on defense, Allen followed that up with a leadoff double on offense in the bottom of the fourth. He advanced to third on a passed ball and then scored on Brady Forrester’s sacrifice fly to make it a 4-1 ball game.
With some aggressive base-running by Hart and Schultz in the fifth, the Panthers were able to get that run back and while an error made the bottom of the sixth a little lively, the Wildcats still struggled to execute.
“We just didn’t get that key hit or didn’t have that key thing that allowed us to close the gap,” Purcell said.
Meanwhile, the Panther offense had no trouble extending its lead and Zack Lux delivered in the seventh inning with a solo blast and an error brought in the final run of the game.
Some late drama was generated by an error and a single from Jordan Booth, but Hart struck out Allen in the next at-bat to end the game and allow the Panthers to come away with a 7-1 victory and the series split.
After getting “kicked in the teeth,” Ternes challenged his team to respond in game two and he was pleased with the results. Now, the Panthers (6-8) will try to build off that in a road doubleheader against the Thunder of Nemaha Central starting at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.
Holton (5-5), meanwhile, will get ready for another tough home doubleheader as the Wildcats will welcome in the Tigers of Jeff West for a pair of games starting at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
HHS- Haverkamp, Mulroy and Pool; RV- Hart and McClane.
2B: HHS- Rieschick and Allen; RV- Linn.
3B: RV- Barger
HR: RV- Lux.
SB: HHS- Rieschick, Booth, Haverkamp (2) and Butto; RV- Lux (2), Hart and Schultz.