Minutemen Put Away Panthers in Middle Innings for First Franchise Victory

By: Ryan Zimmerman

Lansing, Ill. – Old Timer’s Sports Complex served as the site for MCL history. After three consecutive tough-luck losses, the MCL Minutemen finally recorded their first-ever win, an 8-2 defeat of the Crestwood Panthers.

“It feels great to finally get that first win,” manager Jack Murphy said. “It’s a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. Now we can continue to just go out there every day and play free and easy.”

Starting pitching has been one of the team’s biggest strengths in the early goings, and Jeremiah Williams (South Suburban College/Calumet City, Ill.) only proved that further. Making his first start of the 2020 campaign, the sophomore right-hander threw six superb innings in a winning effort, permitting just two runs (one earned) to score on four hits, striking out one with just one walk. His plan of attack was simple: pound the strike zone. Of his 84 pitches, 59 were strikes, resulting in a 70% strike rate.

“Since I was young, my mentality is always to be aggressive on the mound,” Williams said of his approach. “It’s always been that way for me. I just wanted to go out there, pound the strike zone, and play my game today. I’m glad it got us the win.”

It took a bit more time than usual for the Minutemen offense to get going against Panthers starter Eddie Wilkins, but when it did, the runs came in a hurry. Outside of first-inning doubles off the bats of Malik Peters (Northern Illinois/Calumet City, Ill.) and Ryan Howe (Purdue/Mount Prospect, Ill.), the lineup stayed relatively quiet. 

However, that all changed the third time through the order. With the score tied at one, the lineup took advantage of sloppy defense to break the game open. Brendan Collins (Wisconsin-Parkside/Lemont, Ill.) and Peters led off the frame with a hit-by-pitch and single respectively before Mike Bolton Jr. (Purdue/Calumet City, Ill.) used his speed to force an error. Howe plated the go-ahead run in Collins on a fielder’s choice while Peters crossed home plate on the ensuing throwing error. Bolton later came around to score on a wild pitch. When the Panthers looked up, the Minutemen held a 4-1 advantage.

The Panthers clawed back to cut the Minutemen lead to two in the bottom of the inning, but the visitors responded with another three-spot in the sixth. The back third of the lineup loaded the bases via a single and two walks, and the first four hitters took full advantage. Peters recorded a run-scoring groundout before Bolton put his speed on display to cause another defensive miscue, tacking on one more. Cleanup man Ryan McCoy (Wabash Valley College/Frankfort, Ill.) then laced a line-drive base hit to right field, capping off successive three-run innings and providing a 7-2 cushion heading into the final three innings.

“Our guys were aggressive in the strike zone today,” Murphy said. “That was good to see. They were getting pitches to hit early in counts and putting their best swings on the ball. Our approach at the plate has been excellent so far this season, it shows in our results.”  

McCoy drove in one more with another well-hit single in the eighth inning, pushing the score to 8-2. That proved more than enough run support for relievers Matt Blaney (Illinois Wesleyan/Tinley Park, Ill.) and Mike Koszewski (Cincinnati/Oak Park, Ill.) to finish the job. The duo combined for three no-hit innings with each fanning one Panther, cementing the historic victory.

The Minutemen return to action tomorrow to face the Joliet Generals at Howie Minas Field tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. In order to make it back-to-back wins, Murphy does not want his team to change a thing.

“We’ve been playing well so far,” he elaborated. “The record doesn’t show how good we really are. I’m very happy with how we’ve done. We’re going to go out their tomorrow, grind out at-bats, make plays on defense, and keep playing our style of baseball.”

Be sure to catch every pitch on the Joliet Generals Broadcast Network. Alex Coil and Ryan Zimmerman will have the call.

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