St. Croix Central baseball is hitting, but defense undermines chancesThe hitting has improved drastically for the St. Croix Central baseball team the past few weeks, but the team’s defense has dropped off just as sharply.
The hitting has improved drastically for the St. Croix Central baseball team the past few weeks, but the team’s defense has dropped off just as sharply.
The defensive mistakes magnified the Panthers’ inexperienced pitching in three losses. The Panthers scored a combined 16 runs in their last two games, but took the loss in both of them.
On Monday the Panthers were outslugged by Colfax 13-9. The Panthers fell behind 7-0 in the first two innings but fought their way back into the game. A pair of doubles bracketed a four-run third inning for the Panthers. Ethan Lindahl started the inning with a double to the base of the rightfield fence. The rally was completed when Alec Lamberty sent a towering two-run double to the fence in leftfield.
The Panthers added two more runs in the fourth inning to cut the margin to 7-6. Singles by Anthony Phillips and Alex Adkins were the keys to that scoring.
Central tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the seventh, but Colfax had already taken charge by scoring four runs in the sixth and two in the seventh. Phillips had a two-run single to bring home the final Panther runs of the seventh inning.
Mitch Katner, Tyler Lathe and Alex Adkins all took turns pitching on Monday, but none could slow down the Colfax attack. The Vikings finished the game with 15 hits.
The Panthers lost another high-scoring game at St. Croix Falls last Friday, 12-7. The Panthers gave up their biggest inning of the season to the Saints, an 11-run second inning that buried the Panthers. But there was something good that came out of the game.
Adkins came on to pitch in relief, getting the Panthers out of the second inning. From there on, Adkins was untouchable. He needed 39 pitches to work five innings. He allowed one Saint to reach base in the final four innings.
Central coach Jason Koele said the team is getting excellent relief pitching, but the starting pitchers have struggled in recent games. He attributed that to the team’s pitching inexperience. Lathe and Katner had limited varsity pitching exposure last season, but the rest of the pitchers are working at the varsity level for the first time.
The Panthers did push the Saints to seven innings with a five-run rally in the fifth inning. Koele worked in several junior varsity players for the non-conference game and Joe Pace and Brady Henry were among the players who contributed to the rally.
Last Thursday the Panthers played their closest game of the week, losing to Mondovi 5-4. Mondovi won the game with a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Central scored all four of its runs in the fifth inning. Central had four hits in the game, but three came during this rally. Lamberty, Adkins and Katner each singled as part of the scoring.
Lathe pitched the first six innings, giving up four runs, two of them earned. Isaiah Krogseng was brought in to pitch the seventh, taking the loss.
“They squirted the ball in places we weren’t,” Koele said.
The Panthers complete their regular season in the upcoming days with three road games. They play at Elk Mound Thursday in their Dunn-St. Croix Conference finale. They play at Somerset on Friday and at Baldwin-Woodville next Tuesday.
Koele said he expects to face B-W again in the opening round of WIAA Division 2 regional playoff action, which is scheduled to be played on Friday, May 25. Koele is of the opinion that Central and B-W are battling for the fourth and fifth spots in the regional tournament bracket. The seeding voting will be done this Wednesday.