Sudden turnaround: St. Croix Central baseball strings together three winsA little confidence has gone a long way for the St. Croix Central baseball team.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
A little confidence has gone a long way for the St. Croix Central baseball team.
The Panthers started the season with a new coach and a shortage of varsity experience, so nobody was sure how long it would take them to get up to speed. It took four games.
After the four opening losses, the Panthers have now reeled off three straight wins. That streak started last Thursday when the Panthers defeated Osceola 5-3. On Friday the Panthers and Spring Valley waged an offensive showdown, but the Panthers prevailed 12-11. The win streak climbed to three on Monday when the Panthers scored a 5-4 win at Pepin.
The win streak started against Osceola, a team that is in the upper half of the Middle Border Conference standings. The win was the first for Panther coach Jason Koele as a varsity coach.
The Panthers beat Osceola despite getting two hits in the game. Osceola’s pitcher had control problems and the Panthers waited him out, working Chieftain pitchers for six walks. Most of those walks came during the Panthers’ five-run second inning. Tyler Lathe’s double was the only hit of that rally, with all the other Central baserunners coming on walks and errors.
“It was a lot of smart at-bats. The guys really had a good eye at the plate,” Koele said.
Senior Mike Nelson pitched the complete game to record the first Panther victory of the season. He allowed eight hits, walking six and striking out two.
The Panthers then moved into Dunn-St. Croix Conference action with Friday’s game against Spring Valley. Central scored five runs in the first inning, but needed to keep scoring as Spring Valley’s bats were just as productive. Central scored in all six innings that they batted.
Lathe led the offense with three hits and Isaiah Krogseng had two hits. They both drove home two runs, as did Mitch Katner.
Stolen bases have become a staple of the Panther attack. They stole six more against Spring Valley, including three in the first inning.
“We’ll keep doing it until somebody can throw us out,” Koele said bluntly. “In situations where we can read the pitcher or see the catcher isn’t real strong, we’re going to run.”
Lathe got the pitching win for the Panthers, working the first five innings. Alex Owens pitched the final two innings to get the save. Owens had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, getting a strikeout for the final out of the game.
The Panthers struck early in Monday’s win at Pepin, scoring once in the first inning and twice in the second inning. Nelson led off the first with a single, stole second base, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Adam Lewis’ sacrifice fly.
Cody Peterson led off the second inning by getting hit with a pitch and Tony Phillips followed with a walk. They both came around to score. They were among four junior varsity players who were brought up to the varsity for the week to replace four players who will be unavailable. The JV players were productive, going a combined 3-6 at the plate with two runs scored.
The Panthers added two insurance runs in the sixth inning. Lathe and Logan Nelson led off the inning with singles. Lathe scored on a throwing error and Nelson scored on a dropped flyball.
Kyle Tallman helped his status in the Panthers’ hunt for a third starting pitcher by working into the seventh inning in Monday’s game. Pepin scored twice in the seventh and the Lakers got the tying run on first base.
That’s when Koele brought in Mike Nelson in relief. Nelson needed one pitch to finish off the game. His first pitch was lined right back at Nelson. He caught the liner, then fired to first base to complete the game-ending double play.
The Panthers are back in action this Thursday with a game at Colfax. The Panthers play at home next Monday against Mondovi.