By: Jon Zaghloul
Bloomington, Ill. – August 2, 2019 – After coming out on the winning side of two decisive matchups against both the Joliet Generals and the DuPage County Hounds, the Crestwood Panthers looked to set a franchise record on Friday night, as a win versus the Bloomington Bobcats would mark the team's longest winning streak in its MCL-affiliated history. Unfortunately, however, a rare struggle at the plate, combined with three defensive miscues, not only halted a record-breaking vision, but also, led to a 10-5 loss against the Bobcats.
The Panthers, usually immune to collective scuffling from an offensive standpoint, only had three batters in their lineup record hits throughout the game. Both Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) and Mike Machnic (Kankakee CC / Chicago, Ill.) contributed two hits and two RBIs apiece, while Jake Hunt (Calumet College / Whiting, Ind.) also added one hit in three trips to the plate. Other than the aforementioned players, though, the Panthers were held hitless as a team, especially as evidenced by their .143 (5/35) batting average. According to Manager Isaac Valdez, a sparse lineup at the game's outset played a role in Crestwood's meager offensive production.
"We had a thin lineup, having to play with a straight nine, and forcing the pitcher to hit," said Valdez. "It made it extra important for everybody to have good at-bats, and the bottom of the order needed to come through. And that's a tough task against a good team like Bloomington. I thought there were stretches where we just made it too easy for them; they didn't have to work very hard to retire us in order in the early innings. I think we needed to be a little more patient, but it didn't happen tonight."
On the mound, the Panthers were treated to a gutsy performance by usual reliever Ryan McGrath (South Suburban College / Oak Lawn, Ill.). Across 5.1 innings of work, McGrath scattered eight hits, giving up six runs, yet kept Crestwood to within one run of the Bobcats during his time on the mound. Michael Kokoszka (South Mountain CC / Westmont, Ill.) would later enter in relief, recording three strikeouts in 2.2 innings, while surrendering three runs in the process. Despite the end result, Valdez was pleased with his team's ability to continually stay in the game, and fight to make a comeback until the very end.
"I give all of the credit to the guys who make the trip over here, and especially to those who make the trip on a consistent basis," said Valdez. "We've been playing very well as of late. Outside today actually, we've won three out of our last four, and if we had a couple of more hitters who are typically here, I think we would have had a different outcome tonight."
As for Crestwood, their next game comes on Saturday night at Oil City Stadium, in which they'll face off against the Northwest Indiana Oilmen at 7 p.m. Brandon Vickrey and Jon Zaghloul will have the call on the Oilmen Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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