Crestwood, Ill. – August 7, 2020 – The heat is officially on in the MCL playoff race.
Although still hard to believe for some, the Crestwood Panthers (16-11) currently sit just 1 1/2 games behind the DuPage County Hounds (19-11) for the second and final MCL postseason spot. And on Friday afternoon, in a critical matchup against DuPage County, the Panthers’ bats came alive in the sixth, propelling the team to a 9-4 victory.
Entering that fateful sixth frame, Crestwood had already scored three runs via a Cameron Bufford (Grambling State University / South Holland, Ill.) RBI lineout, Colton Rydlewski (Albion College / Schererville, Ind.) RBI single, and Ray Hilbrich (Purdue University-Northwest / Schererville, Ind.) solo home run. Then, in the sixth, Tim Fauth (North Park University / Elk Grove Village, Ill.) launched a majestic grand slam home run to left-center field, making it a 7-2 game. Three batters later, though, Scott Richards (Moraine Valley CC / Orland Park, Ill.) added a two-run home run of his own, giving Crestwood a 9-2 lead at the time, and thus, putting the game out of reach.
“I said after Wednesday’s game that I was looking forward to seeing who would be the hero in today’s game,” manager Isaac Valdez said. “And to see Scott go deep for us was outstanding. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen him turn it on in batting practice, but it still didn’t quite transfer over to the game. Slowly, though, it did. I feel great for him because he’s worked at it, and I hope that’s a huge confidence booster for him.”
D’Vante Glenn (Coe College / Chicago, Ill.) also recorded two hits in the contest, and the Panthers, as a team, hit .314. That spectacular offensive output, which has been consistent during the team’s 13-3 stretch, has been a primary contributor to their push for the playoffs.
On the mound, Eddie Wilkins (University of Illinois-Springfield / Braidwood, Ill.) turned in yet another masterful outing, pitching six innings of two-run baseball, while striking out six Hounds hitters. Then, in relief, Casey Pickering (UW-Stevens Point / Naperville, Ill.) posted three strong innings of work, adding two strikeouts of his own.
“Both Eddie and Casey did a great job for us today,” Valdez said. “Eddie was just missing bats; they were swinging and missing a lot and Casey is just continuing to develop. His curveball is outstanding and really makes his fastball look better… he’s improved a lot over the course of the season.”
With the win, Crestwood is now tied with the Hounds in the loss column, but still sit in third place in the MCL standings. That being said, Valdez is confident in the Panthers’ ability to make a run at the postseason.
“We’ve won 13 out of our past 16,” Valdez said. “We’re the hottest team in the league right now. But, they’re [The Hounds] also a great team. They have a couple of their biggest bats out of the lineup and could be losing some more players here soon. They’ve had a great season, they deserve the record that they have, and [manager] Ben [Caple] has done a great job. Fortunately, we’ve had their number this year, so far, and that’s a credit to our guys.”
Crestwood will continue their quest for a playoff berth on Saturday afternoon, as they oppose the Southland Vikings from Lansing Old Timers Field. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. on the Panthers’ Broadcast Network, available via Facebook Live.
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