By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 7, 2020 – As manager Isaac Valdez mentioned after Monday’s loss to DuPage County, hitting is contagious. And on Tuesday, as more Panthers players began to shake off the rust of a longer-than-usual offseason, Valdez’s words of wisdom took center stage. Crestwood not only defeated the Joliet Generals 10-0, but also recorded eleven hits, and collectively batted .282.
The action began in the top half of the third inning. After already boasting a 2-0 lead due to a bases-loaded walk and subsequent error, Jake Rybarski (Belmont Abbey College / Spring Grove, Ill.) drove in catcher Brett Riegler (University of Chicago / Downers Grove, Ill.) on a single to center field. Then, in the fifth inning, Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove Village, Ill.) crushed a two-run home run to left field, thereby strengthening the Panthers’ lead and setting the tone for the rest of the game. Fauth also would go on to add a two-RBI single in the eighth inning, tying him for the team lead in RBIs with four.
Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) also posted his second-consecutive three-hit performance, while driving in three runs of his own in the process. At the moment, he continues to lead Crestwood in batting average, hitting an impressive .471 through four games. Cameron Bufford (Grambling State / South Holland, Ill.) and Frank Klemm (College of DuPage / Darien, Ill.) also contributed RBIs in the winning effort.
“We’ve been underachieving these past few days, and I knew it was just a matter of time for us,” said Valdez. “Believe it or not, we’re still off just a bit. We must be leading the league in foul balls straight back, which tells me that we’re just missing it. We’ve also hit a lot of line drives right at people. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do this again in these next couple of games.”
On the mound, three Panthers pitchers combined for a four-hit shutout. Max Rundberg (Coppin State / Chicago, Ill.) compiled five strong innings of shutout baseball, then, in relief, Alex Simon (Augustana College / Hinsdale, Ill.) and Klemm officially shut the door on Joliet’s repeated comeback efforts. Valdez was especially pleased with the start from Rundberg, plus the gutsy relief effort from Simon, which came with him not sporting his best stuff.
“Rundberg mixed up speeds really well, and did a great job for us today,” said Valdez. “And Simon showed us that he’s mature beyond his years. For him, as an incoming freshman, to not have his best stuff, and still wiggle out of situations without giving up runs, is a credit to his wisdom on the mound.”
Tuesday’s victory marks the earliest point in franchise history that the team has recorded its first win during a season. Based on Crestwood’s current returns in 2020, it is safe to say that the squad looks much-improved in comparison to previous years. As for tomorrow, Valdez plans to have 2019 All-MCL honoree Eddie Wilkins (University of Illinois-Springfield / Braidwood, Ill.) start on the bump, with returning pitcher Breven Daugherity (Chicago State / Joliet, Ill.) make his long-awaited season debut.
“We have Eddie starting tomorrow, and hopefully he can be very efficient,” said Valdez. “I’m aiming for a solid five innings from him, plus we’ll have Breven make his debut. It should be another great game.”
Crestwood’s matchup against the MCL Minutemen will begin at 1 P.M. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live. Jon Zaghloul and Ryan Zimmerman will be on the call from Lansing Old Timers Field.
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