By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – June 5, 2019 – Before Wednesday night's game against the Southland Vikings, Crestwood Panthers Manager Issac Valdez sent a message to his players that said as follows.
"Things are going to turn around tonight. I feel it in my bones."
Although the Panthers suffered their sixth loss of the season, 7-3 to the Vikings, Valdez's original premonition held true.
For starters, Crestwood received a trifecta of excellent pitching performances from Noah Mathias (Roosevelt University / LaPorte, Ind.), Connor McCloskey (Beloit College / Chicago, Ill.), and Brock Budzielek (Calumet College / Hobart, Ind.). Starting the game was Mathias, who, following a four-walk outing against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen on Friday night, exhibited impressive control. In five innings, Mathias surrendered three earned runs, yet struck out three batters, and issued no walks. In relief, McCloskey gave up only one earned run in 2.2 innings, while posting 2 strikeouts. And Budzielek extended his scoreless innings streak to 4.2 after an additional 1.1 well-pitched innings.
At the plate, Reggie Brock Jr. (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.) put on an offensive clinic, batting .800 (4/5) on the day, while adding two significant RBIs in the third inning to tie the game. Nick Anderson (Kankakee CC / Highland, Ind.) also added two hits from the lead-off spot, and Tim Fauth (Harper College / Elk Grove, Ill.) added a sixth inning double, leading to a Tom Stoodt (Butler University / Chicago, Ill.) RBI sacrifice fly. Despite the multitude of accolades, Valdez couldn't hold back his support and praise for Brock's electric performance.
"The kid can hit. He's talented defensively, he's an overall excellent player, and I wouldn't be surprised if his name is announced in next year's draft. I've seen so much growth in him, and the reason why is because Reggie wants to be great, he works at being great, and he will be great. What I saw today is to be expected of him."
The game's final result, however, sullied these otherwise remarkable individual performances. In the end, defensive mistakes proved costly, as the Panthers committed four errors, resulting in a total of three unearned runs to be scored. Had Crestwood stayed error-free, the outcome could have much different.
"You know, those little mistakes will tend to make a big difference," Valdez said. "And today, they did. If we had a walk or we hit a batter, then it just makes it very difficult on the rest of the defense to stay in the game."
That being said, it is apparent that the Panthers are continuing to move in the right direction. Over the past two games, Crestwood has hit .275 as a team, which is a far cry from their below .200 beginning. Pitching has also improved, with gutsy performances from a number of players.
With the Panthers' next game coming Friday against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, Valdez had some choice words for what to expect.
"Well, Eddie [Eddie Wilkins (University of Illinois-Springfield / Braidwood, Ill.)] threw against them last week, and Eddie will throw against them again. I lots of confidence in giving the ball to Eddie, and the guys that have been coming in behind him. I think that we're going to win, and we're going to win big."
The Panthers' matchup against the Oilmen is scheduled for Friday night at 7 p.m. at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. Brandon Vickrey, Blake Toman, and Jon Zaghloul will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcasting Network, which is available via Facebook Live.
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