By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – July 31, 2020 – 2020 has marked a year of firsts for the Crestwood Panthers (12-10).
The team has not only broken the franchise record for the longest in-season winning streak, but they have also won the most games in a single season since joining the Midwest Collegiate League in 2017. And now, after defeating the Southland Vikings (13-12) 5-2 on Friday afternoon, the Panthers, for the first time, have taken sole possession of third place in the league standings.
Crestwood’s victory came via a masterful performance on the mound from both Brady Miller (Western Michigan / Plainfield, Ill.) and Andrew Farbak (Purdue University-Northwest / New Lenox, Ill.). Miller, who was on a pitch count limitation, tossed 4 1/3 innings of two-run baseball, striking out four Vikings’ hitters in the process. Then, in relief, Farbak shut the door on multiple Southland comeback attempts, lasting 4 2/3 scoreless innings, while recording six strikeouts. Manager Isaac Valdez contended that both Miller and Farbak served as the main contributors to the Panthers’ win.
“Brady did a great job in throwing strikes and leaving the game with a lead,” Valdez said. “And Andrew really came through for us when we needed him. He was able to finish up the game for us, and also did an outstanding job on the mound.”
At the plate, eight out of the nine Crestwood batters in the starting lineup posted at least one hit on Friday. Andrew Tenison (Moraine Valley CC / Orland Park, Ill.) was the only player to notch a multi-hit effort, however. The Panthers, offensively, struck early on, as Brett Riegler (University of Chicago / Downers Grove, Ill.) lined a two-out RBI single to left field, plating Cameron Bufford (Coppin State University / South Holland, Ill.) in the first. Then, in the fourth, Donavan Noble (South Suburban College / Chicago, Ill.) added an RBI single before Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) put up an additional two-RBI single, giving the Panthers a commanding 4-0 lead at the time.
“Timely hitting really kept us in the game today,” Valdez said. “Without a doubt, our ability to come through at the plate, especially in key situations, helped us in winning this game.”
Crestwood also committed no errors in the contest, doing so for the first time since their 12-4 victory over the Northwest Indiana Oilmen on July 23. That flawless defensive play, and specific attention to fundamental baseball, also pleased Valdez.
“I’d say, the past three weeks or so, we’ve done a great job overall on the defensive side of things,” Valdez said. “We may not have a great day every day, but we did today, and we found a way to come out on top.”
The win, of course, signifies uncharted territory for the Panthers, as it marks the first time in franchise history that the team has occupied third place in the standings. That being said, Valdez has his sights set on much more than that.
“We’re right there,” Valdez said. “We’re knocking on the door of first place right now, let alone second. Obviously, we can only control what we do; I’m not worried about the other teams and where they stand. But, I love our chances, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens moving forward.”
The Panthers will look to extend their winning streak to four as they oppose the Southland Vikings once again on Saturday afternoon. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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