By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 10, 2020 – Manager Isaac Valdez had repeatedly stated after the Panthers’ past few games that his team is “continuing to put it together.” Granted, although Crestwood has already shown off flashes of promise, they have yet to fully compete as a well-rounded, cohesive unit, that is, until tonight. Backed by two strong performances on the mound from Max Engstrom (Indiana Wesleyan University / Hickory Hills, Ill.) and Ayden Head (Kenyon College / Clarendon Hills, Ill.), plus an impressive display of timely hitting, the Panthers defeated the Northwest Indiana Oilmen 3-2 at Oil City Stadium on Friday night.
The action began in the second inning, as Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / South Holland, Ill.) launched an RBI double to deep center field, plating Panthers’ shortstop Riley Beck (Purdue University-Northwest / Cedar Rapids, Iowa.). Then, later in the frame, Reggie Brock (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.) recorded a sacrifice fly, giving Crestwood an early 2-0 advantage.
The Oilmen, however, stormed right back in the bottom half of the frame, initially roughing up Engstrom by scoring two runs and tying the game back up at two. From that point, though, Engstrom took charge on the mound, striking out three Northwest Indiana hitters in total, while going five strong on the bump. In relief, Head did not allow a hit in four innings, and did not even allow his first base runner until the bottom of the ninth inning. He also posted seven strikeouts against zero walks.
“Max did an awesome job, giving us five quality innings,” said Valdez. “And Ayden was unhittable! His slider was crazy, and he also spotted his fastball very well. To me, they’re both gamers and they did a great job here tonight.”
The game was still knotted up until the sixth inning when pinch hitter Giovanni Lopez (College of DuPage / Saint John, Ind.) hit a two out, full count double to right field, scoring Andrew Tenison (Moraine Valley CC / Orland Park, Ill.) from second base. That, in retrospect, proved to be the game-winning hit and it could not have come at a better time.
“Lopez off the bench was huge,” said Valdez. “His gapshot made the difference in this one, and Tenison did a great job at hustling around the bases. Overall, I thought we had good at-bats, but they had good pitchers too. It was just a great game to be apart of.”
Considering the fact that the Panthers entered this matchup at 1-5, and had not beaten the Oilmen since June of 2019, this has the potential to be a season-defining victory. Valdez certainly believes that the win was significant, and will continue to help Crestwood move in the right direction.
“You know, as early as the season is, this is a significant victory,” said Valdez. “We have to start putting things together, and we’re doing it. We have a very talented team, and once you add more consistency to that, you’re going to start seeing many more W’s.”
The Panthers are set to face off against the MCL Minutemen on Saturday afternoon at 1 P.M. Coverage from Howie Minas Field can be accessed via the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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