By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 5, 2020 – In the time leading up to Sunday’s afternoon tilt between the Panthers and Vikings, game expectations were virtually unknown. Crestwood had just lost a tough season-opener, one that included an offensive blackout, and Southland, meanwhile, sported two excellent pitching debuts and one outfielder who recorded the cycle.
On Sunday, however, a surprising pitcher’s duel ensued, and the Panthers, with a more aggressive approach at the plate, actually outhit the Vikings 11 to 9. In the end, though, it was not enough to overcome a well-balanced offensive attack from Southland, resulting in a 4-2 loss.
Crestwood’s Max Engstrom (Indiana Wesleyan / Hickory Hills, Ill.) went toe-for-toe with the Vikings’ Ryan Manikowski (Creighton / New Lenox, Ill.), allowing just two runs in four innings, while striking out three batters in the process. Then, from innings five through nine, the Panthers used three pitchers in Ryan McGrath (Olive Harvey CC / Oak Lawn, Ill.), Jacob Young (Fairmont State University / Lisle, Ill.), and Andrew Tenison (Moraine Valley CC / Orland Park, Ill.) and gave up just one run combined.
“Max did a great job and really kept them off balance,” said manager Isaac Valdez. “And the bullpen also did a great job. They were able to get their secondary pitches over for strikes, and anytime that happens, you’re able to maximize your fastball. So, when you give up only four runs like we did, that’s a game that can be won. We just didn’t have enough situational hitting today.”
Although the Panthers did outhit the Vikings, they also left 13 runners on base, serving as the main contributor to their losing effort. That being said, Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / Chicago, Ill.), Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove Village, Ill.), and Colton Rydlewski (Albion College / Schererville, Ind.) all recorded multi-hit performances. Valdez credits his team’s aggressive approach to the heightened success they had at the plate on Sunday.
“We were much more aggressive in the box today, and that made a big difference,” said Valdez. “As these guys see more pitches and get more reps, their approach is going to continue to be better and their end results will also be better. I’m looking forward to what the next few days hold for us.”
The Panthers will play host again on Monday afternoon, as they oppose the DuPage County Hounds at Lansing Old Timers Field. Jon Zaghloul and Tom Gorski will have the call at 2 P.M. on the Panthers Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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