Panthers rally for win in 10 innings to stay atop Valley
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
With the lead in the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) on the line, the Stevens Point Area Senior High School (SPASH) baseball team came back to pull out an extra-inning win over Wausau West at Memorial Park in Plover Monday, May 7.
After losing 5-3 to Wausau West in the first game of the doubleheader Monday to fall into a three-way tie for first place, the Panthers got a two-out RBI single from junior first baseman Jack Kelly in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game at 5-5 and eventually send it to extra innings, where junior left fielder Mason King delivered a RBI single to provide the difference in a 6-5 victory in 10 innings.
“It’s a conference game, and a big rivalry,” said Kelly. “It wasn’t good to split with them, but the second one felt great.”
“The kids showed some great resilience, because twice we blew leads, and they could’ve quit,” said SPASH baseball head coach Kraig Terpstra. “Instead, we were down to our last out, and got a couple of big hits.”
The Panthers entered the doubleheader alone at the top of the WVC standings at 4-0, ahead of D.C. Everest (5-1) and reigning Conference Champion Wausau West (4-1), and scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 3-0 lead in the first game of the doubleheader.
However, West senior and NCAA Division II Minot State (ND) commit Grant Hill hit a grand slam in the top of the fifth inning off of SPASH junior starter Dylan Trigg to lead a five-run rally that gave West a 5-3 lead.
The Panthers put runners on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning before West got a strikeout to close out a 5-3 win, as Trigg took the loss after he allowed four earned runs on three hits, struck out four and walked two, while junior center fielder Brady Franz went 2-for-3 to lead the offense.
In Game 2, West scored on a RBI single off SPASH senior pitcher Isaac Perner in the bottom of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead, while senior catcher John Bohanski scored on RBI groundout from junior shortstop Brett Ehr in the top of the third inning to tie at 1-1, and Kelly followed with a two-out solo home run off West senior pitcher and NCAA Division 1 Western Illinois commit Chandler Fochs to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.
“Jack’s swinging the bat well right now,” said Terpstra. “The home run off their ace was pretty impressive, he took some pitches that when he was a younger player, he’d fish for some of those.
“But he stayed off of them,” he said.
West took advantage of three SPASH errors in the third inning to score a run and tie it at 2-2, then had a RBI single in fourth to go up 3-2, and scored a pair of runs in the fifth on a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch to build a 5-2 lead.
The Panthers answered with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning, as senior third baseman Cole Wright drew a leadoff walk, and following a double from Perner, scored on a wild pitch, while sophomore pinch runner Barrett Brooks scored on a sacrifice fly from junior right fielder Tristan Aldrich to make it 5-4
It stayed that way going into the top of the seventh inning, where West recorded back-to-back outs to start the inning, and Ehr was down 0-2 in the count when he came up with an infield single to keep the game alive.
Ehr advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Kelly drove a 3-2 pitch into left field for a single to score Ehr and tie the game at 5-5.
“I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and just hit something hard,” said Kelly. “At first I thought it was going to get caught, because they were playing pretty far back. “But it felt great, seeing the run get in,” he said.
“Just a clutch hit there to give us a chance to win there in extra innings,” said Terpstra.
Junior relief pitcher JD Schultz shut out West in the seventh, and again in the eighth and ninth, as the game remained deadlocked at 5-5 heading into the top of the 10th inning, where Perner led off with a single and was bunted to second by Aldrich.
Senior Sam Lawrynk drew a walk to put runners on first and second with one out, when King stepped to the plate and drilled a single to left field, as Perner came around to score ahead of the throw to give the Panthers a 6-5 lead.
“It was coming down to the wire, and it felt great hitting that single to bring in Perner,” said King. “We all clutched up at the end, and we need all of the wins that we can get for conference.”
“I knew Mason was going to hit it hard, I was just hoping it was going to find a hole,” said Terpstra. “Isaac’s an excellent baserunner, and he did a great job of scoring.”
Schultz retired the side in order in the bottom of the 10th, as he picked up the win in relief after he struck out six, walked none and allowed two hits in four shutout innings, while Kelly went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, and Perner was 3-for-5 with a double to lead the offense.
“Perner really battled for us through some tough innings, and JD Schultz was just great in relief and really slammed the door,” said Terpstra. “He was pitching very well, we just needed a run, and Mason came up with a big hit.
“We’ve got to clean some things up defensively, and base running, and we’ve got a chance to be a good team,” he said. “But I was impressed with how we came back today.”