St. Croix Central baseball team gets their leader back for playoffsGetting their team leader back was the best possible thing for the St. Croix Central baseball team as the Panthers head into WIAA Division 2 playoff action this Friday.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Getting their team leader back was the best possible thing for the St. Croix Central baseball team as the Panthers head into WIAA Division 2 playoff action this Friday.
Senior Mike Nelson was given clearance on Monday to resume playing, a month after breaking his collarbone. Nelson made his return on Monday in the Panthers’ 11-4 loss at Baldwin-Woodville.
The Panthers haven’t been the same since Nelson’s injury. They hovered around the .500 mark through the first half of the season. After Nelson’s injury their inexperienced pitching staff became further and further stretched and it showed in the results. The Panthers have lost their last seven games, taking a 6-14 record into the playoffs.
The playoff opener for the Panthers arrives this Friday, when they play at 1 p.m. in Bloomer.
Panther coach Jason Koele said the team changed when Nelson took the field on Monday.
“When he pitched you could see the energy, the passion coming back. That could provide the motivation to make a run in the playoffs,” Koele said.
The Panthers go into the playoffs as the sixth seed in the regional. Bloomer is the third seed in the bracket. Bloomer carries an 11-11 record into the playoffs.
Koele is hoping the pitching will be near full strength for Friday’s game. Junior Tyler Lathe, who has been rested because of a tender pitching arm, was able to work two innings on Monday. Mitch Katner worked the final two innings in the game.
The Panthers outhit Baldwin-Woodville 11-10 on Monday. The factor that damaged the Panthers’ chances was defense. The Panthers committed a whopping 11 errors in the game, including four in B-W’s four-run first inning.
A four-run third inning was a nice sign for the Panthers. Katner drove home two runs in the rally with a hit down the third base line and Adam Lewis also singled home a run.
The pitching shortage showed in the Panthers’ games late last week. The Panthers lost at Somerset 10-0 last Friday. Shortstop Dan Sukowatey volunteered to start.
“We were out of pitchers,” Koele said. “With sore arms, guys down, we had limited options.”
Sukowatey, Isaiah Krogseng and Adam Lewis all took turns pitching.
For last Thursday’s game against Elk Mound, junior Brady Henry was brought up from the junior varsity to pitch. The Mounders won the game 11-0.
“Brady did pretty well. Elk Mound has some very good hitters,” Koele said.
The Panthers weren’t able to manage much offensive firepower in those losses. They managed two hits against Somerset and four hits against Elk Mound.
Last Tuesday the Panthers got to play at one of the more famed parks in the area, playing under the lights at Eau Claire’s Carson Park against Eau Claire Immanuel. Immanuel took charge early and won the game 12-4.
Kyle Tallman started on the mound, with Alex Adkins working four innings of relief. Central had five hits in the game. Sukowatey drove home two of the Panthers’ four runs.