By: Jon Zaghloul
Crestwood, Ill. – August 3, 2020 – It was initially a franchise record that had comfortably stood the test of time, but on Monday afternoon against the Joliet Generals (4-20), Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / South Holland, Ill.) decided to take matters into his own hands. He not only went five-for-five with three doubles and one RBI, but became the Panthers’ all-time single-game hits king, as Crestwood (13-11) cruised to a 12-3 victory.
The Panthers’ scoring barrage began early via an Alex Simon (Augustana College / Hinsdale, Ill.) two-RBI single that plated Kevin Coe (Eastern Kentucky University / Chicago, Ill.) and Bufford. Then, in the second, Crestwood struck for five more runs, as Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.), D’Vante Glenn (Coe College / Chicago, Ill.), Scott Richards (Moraine Valley CC / Orland Park, Ill.), and Riley Beck (Purdue University-Northwest / Cedar Rapids, Iowa.) all recorded RBIs in the frame. That production, especially from the lower half of the lineup, is what manager Isaac Valdez cited as the team’s main contributor to the win.
“I don’t want to minimize what the top of the order did,” Valdez said. “But we don’t win this game without the bottom of the order producing like they did. They struck right away, especially in those first two innings. I don’t know if this is the same ballgame if the bottom of the order produces in the fifth or sixth inning. The fact that they came through early is, I believe, a big reason why we won this game.”
Crestwood would go on to strike for two more runs in the fourth, as Bufford and Coe each recorded RBIs. And, in the seventh Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove Village, Ill.) added an RBI double to extend the Panthers’ lead to eight at the time. In total, Crestwood hit a sizzling .418 as a team on Monday, plus drew more walks (12) than strikeouts (11). It was, arguably, the Panthers’ best team effort at the plate in 2020.
On the mound, Max Engstrom (Indiana Wesleyan University / Hickory Hills, Ill.) turned in yet another strong outing, pitching 4 1/3 innings of three-run baseball. In relief, Anthony Scanlon (University of Dubuque / Saint John, Ind.) delivered 1 2/3 shutout frames, and Dylan White (University of Chicago / Danville, Calif.) shut the door on Joliet, dealing three additional shutout innings with six strikeouts to boot.
“Max did a great job today,” Valdez said. “Anthony also did great in getting us five outs in relief. I would have kept him in longer, but I knew that I needed to get Dylan some work. And he had a great opportunity to come in and work on some specific things that will help us later on in the season.”
As for the Panthers, the win allows Crestwood to maintain its third-place position in the MCL standings, as their winning percentage of .565 outweighs the .536 mark maintained by the Southland Vikings. At the moment, the Panthers have 16 games still to be played, and sit within striking distance of the top two spots in the standings, which, of course, signifies playoff baseball. Valdez expressed his optimism in Crestwood eventually climbing the ladder to the top.
“Well, over the next seven days, we’re supposed to play the [DuPage County] Hounds four times,” Valdez said. “That’s what we want. It puts everything in our hands. We’ve done well against them so far, but we have to continue to do well. And, I expect us to fully compete; I think we will do well.”
The Panthers will be back in action on Tuesday afternoon, as they oppose the MCL Minutemen from historic Howie Minas Field. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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