By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 26, 2020 – Unfortunately, in baseball, as in life, all good things must come to an end. Case in point, on Sunday afternoon, the Crestwood Panthers (9-9) lost their first game since July 15th, falling to the Northwest Indiana Oilmen (13-6) 7-2.
Crestwood’s usually potent offensive attack went silent on Sunday, as the team only recorded five hits, which were spread out amongst three different players. Donavan Noble (South Suburban College / Chicago, Ill.) recorded two hits out of the seventh spot in the lineup, and Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / South Holland, Ill.) also continued his reign at the top of the order, going one-for-four with a base-hit.
Panthers batting leader Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.), though, made the biggest headlines at the plate, posting yet another two-hit performance, the likes of which included a majestic solo home run to deep left field. Over the past seven games, Hilbrich has hit an impressive .533 (8/15) with seven runs batted in. His consistent presence near the top of Crestwood’s lineup has served as a primary contributor to the team’s winning ways. That being said, the rest of the Panthers’ offense had considerably tough days in the batter’s box.
“They kept us off balance throughout the game,” manager Isaac Valdez said. “From the first pitch to the last pitch, we just couldn’t stay balanced and we didn’t make an adjustment as the game moved forward. And as I’ve said, even during the winning streak, the way we’re playing is not sustainable; we need to play better fundamental baseball.”
On the mound, starter Dylan White (University of Chicago / Danville, Calif.) overcame a rocky first couple of innings to turn in four total innings of two-run baseball. And, in relief, Ayden Head (Kenyon College / Clarendon Hills, Ill.) added 2 2/3 innings before Eddie Wilkins (University of Illinois-Springfield / Braidwood, Ill.) dealt 1 1/3 shutout frames. According to Valdez, however, long periods of rest could have contributed to the team’s performance from a pitching standpoint.
“You know, having too much time off is a concern that popped into my head,” Valdez said. “That’s something that falls on me, and I’m going to be more cognizant of having guys get their work in before their in-game appearances.”
As for the Panthers, their franchise-record six-game winning streak has officially come to an end, and they will look to begin another streak on Monday afternoon, as they oppose the MCL Minutemen from Andrean High School. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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