By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 28, 2019 – Although Saturday afternoon's 13-2 loss against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen was difficult to endure, it seemed as if the Panthers took a page out of NWI's book on Sunday, as they struck for eight runs in the game's opening frame, and later defeated the Joliet Generals 10-7.
At first, the Panthers were aided by a string of three consecutive walks, and a hit by pitch, by Joliet starting pitcher Jake Meyer. The initial timely hit, however, was emphatically provided by Austin De La Cruz (Beloit College / Kailua Kona, Hawaii), who laced a bases-clearing double to left-center field. Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove, Ill.) then recorded an RBI single to score De La Cruz, serving as the first of his three hits on the day. Crestwood continued in their offensive barrage courtesy of two separate RBI singles from Nick Anderson (Kankakee CC / Highland, Ind.) and Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.). When it was all set and done, the Panthers not only plated eight baserunners, but established a lead that would hold through the game's end.
"I thought the middle and the bottom half of the order did a good job today," said Manager Isaac Valdez. "When we get production from the lower part of the order, then that bodes well for us, because we have a couple of the best hitters in this league at the top. Everything worked out in our favor; we jumped on them early, and held the lead until the end."
Overall, Crestwood's seven through nine hitters in the order went a combined six for thirteen, hitting an impressive .461. Leading the charge was the aforementioned Fauth, who recorded three hits and one RBI, along with D'Vante Glenn (Coe College / Chicago, Ill.), who added three hits of his own. On a separate, but related note, Fauth's three-hit day put his batting average for the week at .320, and with four RBIs to boot, he is currently under consideration for the MCL's Player of the Week Award.
On the mound, Connor McCloskey (Beloit College / Chicago, Ill.) turned in another excellent outing, pitching six strong innings of four-run baseball, adding two strikeouts. Ethen Otstott (Prairie State College / Oak Forest, Ill.) entered in relief, surrendering three earned runs in 1.2 innings of work, before starting third baseman Mike Machnic (Kankakee CC / Chicago, Ill.) officially shut the door, twirling 1.1 scoreless frames en route to his first save of the season.
"The last couple of outings from Connor have been outstanding, today being included in that," said Valdez. "He went six strong innings, and allowed us, with very thin pitching, to get the win today."
As for the Panthers, their tumultuous stretch of seven games in seven days has finally ended, with the team recording a remarkable 3-4 record. At the same time, Sunday's win marked Crestwood's tenth win of the season, something they had not come close to doing in 2018. Reflecting on the significance of both the week's record, and the team's tenth win overall, Valdez was quite pleased with his team's visible improvement.
"Usually, the record of a team is indicative of how the season went," said Valdez. "But, not at any point during the season did I feel that our record was indicative of our talent. We've had a lot of guys who have excelled in their roles, whether it was playing a lot or playing very little, and that helps out the team morale. I really appreciate everyone accepting their roles, and that's helped us get to ten wins, and possibly more before the season ends."
After a well-deserved two days off, the Panthers will be back in action on Wednesday evening against the DuPage County Hounds at the Lemont High School Sports Complex. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. with Jon Zaghloul on the Panthers' Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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