By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 24, 2019 – Following an emotionally-draining win on Tuesday night against the Southland Vikings, the Crestwood Panthers looked to utilize the end result to their advantage, building significant momentum throughout the MCL season's home stretch. Their ensuing matchup against the DuPage County Hounds on Wednesday night, however, proved to contradict that statement, as a large number of walks and errors led to a 12-5 loss.
Although the Panthers did take the initial lead in the first inning, courtesy of an Austin De La Cruz (Beloit College / Kailua Kona, Hawaii) two-out RBI single, the Hounds would go on to strike for nine runs over the next two frames, establishing a commanding 9-3 lead heading into the fourth. Ray Hilbrich's (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) two-RBI single in between DuPage County's nine-run barrage would serve as Crestwood's only offense until the sixth inning, when the Panthers added another run via a walk. All in all, though, the Panthers committed five errors, accounting for eight unearned runs, while also issuing eleven free passes. Manager Isaac Valdez was frustrated with his pitchers' inability to find the zone.
"Unfortunately, that's the way some pitchers have thrown all season long," said Valdez. "Some of our guys haven't made any adjustments or changes, and that's hurt us. You want to rely on guys to throw at least two or three innings without walking more than two, but it didn't work out tonight."
Despite the game's rough start on the mound, Ethan Soderna (Ohio Wesleyan University / Chicago, Ill.) continued to justify his MCL All-Star Game selection. In six innings out of the bullpen, Soderna allowed just one earned run (five total), while striking out five Hounds hitters. His gutsy relief performance not only saved the Panthers pitching for later in the week, but consistently kept the team in the game until the very end.
"It wasn't Ethan's best outing, but he battled," said Valdez. "He found a way to get it done, and pitched well enough. We just couldn't find a way to support him defensively."
At the plate, Crestwood actually matched DuPage County in total hits with nine. De La Cruz, Hilbrich, and Reggie Brock Jr. (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.) each led the way with two hits apiece, while Nick Anderson (Kankakee CC / Highland, Ind.) added one hit and two walks. Despite the dysfunction both on the mound and in the field, the Panthers, offensively speaking, still had opportunities to make a comeback in the game. Unfortunately, however, they managed to leave 12 runners on base, thus quashing any chance to overcome the defensive miscues and pitching problems.
"We had our opportunities to come back on several occasions," said Valdez. "The script could have been different in the end, but we just couldn't get that hit when we really needed it. And that's the way it goes sometimes in a long season."
The Panthers will look to put Wednesday night's game behind them, as they'll be right back at it on Thursday against the Southland Vikings from Howie Minas Field. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Jon Zaghloul and Will Trubshaw on the Panthers Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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