By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 10, 2019 – For a game that was originally on the verge of cancellation due to field accessibility issues, the Panthers, in retrospect, are quite pleased with the fact that the game was played. Despite being the designated "away" team at their home field, along with operating under a seven inning time crunch, Crestwood overcame the situational adversity, soundly defeating the Southland Vikings 9-2 on Wednesday night.
For the Panthers, it all began with their astonishing offensive attack. In the first inning alone, Crestwood plated four runs, effectively ambushing MCL All-Star pitcher Zach Litke. After a Maurey Garrett (Heartland CC / Flossmoor, Ill.) lead-off single, Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) initiated the barrage, launching an RBI triple to center field. Mike Machnic (Kankakee CC / Chicago, Ill.) later drove in Hilbrich with a base-hit, and then, later in the inning, Austin De La Cruz (Beloit College / Kailua Kona, Hawaii) recorded a two-out, two-RBI double. Thus, the Panthers' emphatic opening to the game ended up setting the table for an excellent pitching performance by Breven Daugherity (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.). Although his final line included two earned runs over four innings of work, he twirled three perfect innings before surrendering an infield single early on in the fourth.
"Today was just a great showing all-around; we played well on both sides of the baseball," said Manager Isaac Valdez. "It was really fun to be apart of and again, this is something that this team has always been capable of doing. Look, we tend to play this way when we throw the vast majority of our pitches as strikes. So, I hope that through today's game, our other pitchers watched what Breven and Noah Mathias (Roosevelt University / La Porte, Ind.) did, and can learn from their success on the mound."
Mathias, who entered the game in relief of Daugherity, spun three innings of scoreless baseball, while striking out five and walking none. Although the effects of dehydration hampered his momentum near the game's end, Mathias continued to prove the legitimacy of his selection to the MCL All-Star Game. Across the board, when combining Mathias and Daugherity's numbers, both pitchers did not issue a walk, adding individual strike percentages of 72 and 75 percent, respectively. According to Valdez, those strike percentages played an important role in the team's success on the mound.
"It's not all about velocity at this level," said Valdez. "Sure, velocity always helps, but when you can throw strikes, and throw your fastball where you want, that just maximizes everything else that you have in your arsenal. Throwing strikes is going to do great things for you, and it did for us today."
As for the Panthers at the plate, following the team's four-run first inning, they continued to tack on extra insurance throughout the game. Overall, every player in Crestwood's starting lineup recorded a hit, with the exception of one. Blake Soria (Benedictine University / Homer Glen, Ill.) went two for four with two runs scored, Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove, Ill.) hit a perfect 1.000, posting three hits in three at-bats, while Hilbrich, Machnic, and De La Cruz each added two hits apiece, while combining for six RBIs.
"You're going to win lots of games with 15 hits, and at least seven of them being extra-base hits," said Valdez. "We pounded the baseball today, and that, along with our pitching, played a huge role in the end result."
For the Panthers, Wednesday's win marks their second in a row, and the first throughout the season that they've won consecutive games. Their next matchup features a visit from the Northwest Indiana Oilmen at Howie Minas Field on Thursday night. Coverage starts at 7 p.m. on the Oilmen Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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