Whiting, Ind. – August 3, 2019 – Although the Crestwood Panthers are currently out of playoff contention, and await the conclusion of what has been a rollercoaster 2019 MCL season, on Friday night against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, they proved yet again that their current positioning in the standings does not determine the effort level put forth on the field. In a game that saw four lead changes, and an even score entering the ninth inning, the Panthers made a hard-fought run towards their third win over the past week, but ended up falling to the Oilmen 7-6 on a walk-off single.
Crestwood, once again, took the game's initial lead, as an error on Northwest Indiana's part, in the first inning, allowed Nick Anderson (Kankakee CC / Highland, Ind.) to cross home plate. Later in the frame, Blake Soria (Benedictine University / Homer Glen, Ill.) extended the Panthers' lead, contributing a clutch, two-out RBI single that would make it 2-0 early. The Oilmen would storm back, striking for four runs in the second inning, and took what looked to be a commanding advantage. Crestwood, however, continued to flex their resilient muscles, as a groundout into a double play would plate Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.), thus cutting NWI's lead in half. With two outs, Tom Stoodt (Butler University / Chicago, Ill.) would then take a page out of Soria's book, lining a single to center field, and driving in Reggie Brock Jr. (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.) to tie the game. Manager Isaac Valdez was quite pleased with his team's ability to foster comeback after comeback.
"We competed tonight, without a doubt," said Valdez. "Our pitching was there for the most part, and at the plate, we did what we were supposed to do. We got lots of guys on base, but just couldn't get that one timely hit."
Eddie Wilkins (University of Illinois-Springfield / Braidwood, Ill.) started the game for the Panthers, pitching 5.2 strong innings of four-run baseball, striking out an astounding eight Oilmen hitters in the process. In relief, Breven Daugherity (Chicago State / Joliet, Ill.) limited NWI to two runs over three innings, while throwing 67 percent of his pitches for strikes. Both Wilkins and Daugherity, arguably the team's two aces, continuously made competitive pitches on the mound. As Valdez had stated earlier, though, Crestwood's loss all came down to a lack of timely hitting.
"We had a situation where we had two runners on base and nobody out, and we didn't score," said Valdez. "I believe that happened at least twice to us throughout the game, and when you do that against good teams, you're going to come out on the wrong end of that most of the time."
Although the walk-off loss provided heartbreak for a Panthers team that had come so close yet again, Valdez offered some words of encouragement ahead of the team's season finale against the Bloomington Bobcats.
"We have one more game tomorrow to end the season, and hopefully, we'll just let the bats do the talking."
Crestwood's season finale will take place on Sunday afternoon against the Bloomington Bobcats at Howie Minas Field in Midlothian, Ill. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. with Jon Zaghloul on the Panthers' Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.