Royal Valley baseball opens season with competitive games, series split against Clay Center
“Textbook” would be a good word to describe how Royal Valley baseball’s home opener went against Clay Center on Monday.
After coach Scott Ternes said he felt his team would have a chance to win some close games this season if it just hung around, the Panthers went out and proved his point as they led (narrowly at times) start to finish on the way to a 10-4 victory over Clay Center in game one.
The Panthers wasted no time grabbing the lead as Zack Lux drew a one out walk and stole second base in the bottom of the first inning before Noah Hart drove him in with an RBI single.
While Hart was caught stealing, Royal Valley still managed to add on to its lead as Brooks McClane was hit by a pitch before the Tigers gave up three straight walks, including one to Hayden Fenske with the bases loaded and two outs that gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Schultz started the game on the pitcher’s mound for RV and proceeded to get through the second inning as well, giving up a lone walk between three outs and the offense backed him up again as Lux came through with a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning to score Derrick Barger, who advanced on an error and stole a base to help manufacture the run.
After back-to-back walks to start the third inning, McClane threw out a runner trying to steal and Schultz induced a flyout to centerfield to nearly negate the damage, but the Tigers got an infield single that kept the inning alive and three more walks led to two runs before Lux took the mound to close out the inning and shut the door on Clay Center.
The Tigers than got back-to-back two-out singles to load the bases and put the Panthers in a jam again in the top of the fourth, but Lux struck out the final batter to end the threat and got some breathing room in the bottom half of the inning.
Derek Linn drew a walk with one out to get things going and advanced to second on a groundout by Kyle Stithem. Derrick Barger then came through with a two-out single and aggressively took second base in the process, allowing Linn to score.
Barger then advanced to third on an error and scored on a passed ball to give Royal Valley a 5-2 lead heading into the fifth inning.
After a lead-off walk and an error put runners on first and third with no outs, the Tigers got back within one run thanks to a two-out RBI single in the top of the fifth inning, making it a 5-4 ball game.
This time, the Panthers left no room for a comeback as the team exploded for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull away and cement its victory.
An error put Fenske on to start the inning and Linn and Stithem proceeded to draw back-to-back walks to load up the bases. Barger then followed with a two-RBI double up the middle and Lux had an RBI single after that.
Lux then stole second base and Barger scored on an error in the process before Hart delivered a sacrifice fly to bring in the final run of the game and give the Panthers a 10-4 advantage.
Barger then took the mound in the top of the seventh and worked a nearly perfect inning to close out the first win of the season for the Panthers.
P: RV- Schultz, Lux, Barger and McClane; CC- Pfizenmaier, Liby and Wallace.
2B: RV- Barger.
SB: RV- Linn, Barger, Lux (2), McClane and Fenske; CC- Pfizenmaier and Chestnut.
The second game of the doubleheader was a little more of an adventure and while the Panthers kept themselves in the game again, they came up just short in a 5-4 los to split the series with the Tigers.
While the game started on Monday night, rain postponed the end of it until Tuesday in Clay Center.
Royal Valley and Clay Center started out the game by swapping a pair of runs, as the Tigers took advantage of an early error, while the Panthers got an RBI double from McClane to knot things up 1-1 after one inning.
After a pair of one-two-three innings, the Tigers roared out to a lead in the top of the third as the team picked up three runs in the inning thanks to some aggressive base running, an RBI groundout and an RBI single.
With four straight walks to start the bottom half of the inning, the Panthers got one run closer, but could not get more out of the bases-loaded situation with no outs as the inning ended in a double play.
Starting pitcher Noah Hart cruised through the next two innings and the offense backed him up in the bottom of the fifth inning as Barger drew a walk and Hart reached on an error that allowed him to score.
McClane also reached on an error and Schultz then singled to load the bases before Nick Ehrhart was hit by a pitch to bring in the game-tying run. That’s when the rain started coming down and eventually pushed the final innings of the contest back to Tuesday.
Whether that delay or picking the game back up in Clay Center drained Royal Valley’s momentum, the fact is that the Tigers manufactured a run using an error, a single and two sacrifice hits in the top of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead and the Panthers were unable to get anything going in the bottom half of the inning, resulting in a series split.
Royal Valley looked pretty solid for starting its season right after spring break, though, and the Panthers (1-1) will look to keep the ball rolling in a true road doubleheader at Wamego on Thursday starting at 4:30 p.m.
P: RV- Hart and McClane; CC- Wallace and Demars.
2B: RV- McClane.
SB: RV- Barger and Lux; CC- Demars (2) and Weiche.