By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 11, 2020 – In a back and forth affair, one that saw the Panthers take an initial 4-0 lead, lose it, then regain it in the eighth inning, Crestwood fended off a suspense-filled ninth inning rally that saw the tying run reach second base, defeating the MCL Minutemen 9-8 on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers took advantage early on, plating four runs in the game’s first inning. After Minutemen pitcher Matthew Lelito walked the bases loaded, Crestwood capitalized, as Andrew Tenison (Moraine Valley CC / Orland Park, Ill.), D’Vante Glenn (Coe College / Chicago, Ill.), and Riley Beck (Purdue University-Northwest / Cedar Rapids, Iowa.) each recorded RBIs and gave the team some breathing room on the field. In the next inning, Reggie Brock (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.) would also add an RBI single, giving the team a seemingly insurmountable five-run lead.
That changed, however, in the bottom half of inning three, as the Minutemen struck for four runs, and tacked on another in the fourth, thereby tying the game at five. At that point, manager Isaac Valdez did express concern about his squad’s ability to stay focused during games, as a similar situation occurred two games ago versus Southland.
“We just have to stay focused during games like these,” said Valdez. “You know, this is our seventh game in a row, so, it is getting a bit difficult, but we just have to find ways to power through it.”
Although that Minutemen comeback had the potential to shatter Crestwood’s path to victory, Breven Daugherity (Chicago State / Chicago, Ill.) made sure the situation would not come to that. In his second outing of the season in relief, Daugherity pitched four shutout innings, striking out three Minutemen hitters, and only scattered four hits. According to Valdez, his performance on the mound single-handedly saved the Panthers’ chances to pull out the win.
“Breven was outstanding for us, and we don’t win this game without him,” said Valdez. “He threw strikes and threw multiple pitches for strikes as well. He made a huge contribution to today’s end result.”
Despite Daugherity’s efforts, the Panthers were still tied with the Minutemen through six. In the seventh, though, Valdez made the decision to insert Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / South Holland, Ill.) into the game as a pinch hitter, and he would go on to launch a two-RBI double to right field. Crestwood also added two more runs in the inning, and flexed a four-run advantage until the eighth inning. That clutch substitution marked the second consecutive game in which Valdez called for a pinch hitter, and the player, in turn, delivered.
“This is a credit to the guys here who’ve listened to what I’ve been telling them over the past few days,” said Valdez. “You know, when you’re on the bench, you have to work on being mentally prepared to come into a game at any moment. And these guys have completely taken what I’ve told them to heart. These past couple of games, they’ve been ready to go off the bench, and that’s translated into results on the field.”
Crestwood’s lead was whittled down to just one in the ninth, but the aforementioned Tenison entered the game in relief, and picked up a hard-earned save, retiring Minutemen hitter Mike Koszewski with a runner in scoring position to end the game. The win made history for the Panthers, as this is officially their best start to a season since joining the MCL in 2017.
Crestwood will have the opportunity for win number four tomorrow afternoon at Lansing Old Timer’s Sports Complex, as they oppose the DuPage County Hounds at 3 P.M. Coverage of the game can be accessed on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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