PHS wins first regional in three years

by Greg Ceilley of The Review staff


ZAC CAIN, Plymouth first baseman, drills a single in the first inning of Friday's regional baseball final versus Kiel. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley ZAC CAIN, Plymouth first baseman, drills a single in the first inning of Friday's regional baseball final versus Kiel. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley _______ _ _

PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers executed well in several facets of the game to key a 4-2 win over Kiel in the regional baseball championship game here Friday evening.

It marked the first time since 2009 that the Panthers have won a regional title. PHS, a No. 3 seed, improved to 22-7 and advanced to the sectional semifinals Monday, July 16 versus host Sheboygan Falls.

Kiel, a No. 6 seed, finished 6-19.

The Panthers combined aggressive baserunning, solid pitching and defense, and good hitting. PHS scored two runs with heads-up play – taking extra bases without the benefit of a hit.

“Our aggressive baserunning put pressure on the defense. That's kind of been our M.O. [mode of operation] this season,” said Panther head coach Butch Cain.


CLAY HENNING (above) of Plymouth slides under the tag of Kiel catcher Jeremiah Hughes to score the Panthers' first run in Friday's regional baseball finals. Justin Picard (below) of Plymouth dives back safely as Kiel first baseman Tyler Konz takes a pickoff throw from the pitcher in Friday's regional baseball finals. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley CLAY HENNING (above) of Plymouth slides under the tag of Kiel catcher Jeremiah Hughes to score the Panthers' first run in Friday's regional baseball finals. Justin Picard (below) of Plymouth dives back safely as Kiel first baseman Tyler Konz takes a pickoff throw from the pitcher in Friday's regional baseball finals. — Review photo by Greg Ceilley “We're happy to win the regional. It was one of our goals this season. We played with a lot of urgency and passion.

“The team energy was super and the fans were great,” Cain said.

The Panthers scored twice in the bottom of the first inning to erase a 1-0 deficit. Clay Henning led off with a walk, stole second and moved to third when Zac Cain followed with a line-drive single.

Jake Klemme batted next and struck out but Henning raced home to score when the catcher Jeremiah Hughes threw to first to retire Klemme after dropping the third strike. Luke Held followed with a double to rightcenter field which drove in Cain to make it 2-1.

“That was huge to respond with two runs after they had scored. It gave us energy and momentum,” said coach Cain.

PHS added a run in the fourth and one in the sixth to up its lead to 4-1. In the fourth, Tyler Willeford drilled a one-out double to leftcenter. Tony Arnold then hit a grounder and Willeford was caught between second and third.

Willeford was able to get back to second when the second baseman dropped a throw for an error after being in position to tag the runner. Eric Nygaard followed with a double that knocked in Willeford.

Willeford used alert baserunning in the sixth to score the Panthers' fourth run. The freshman left fielder reached base on a fielder's choice and moved to third on Arnold's infield single. Nygaard batted next and hit into a fielder's choice with Arnold being forced out at second. When the second baseman held the ball too long, Willeford sped home.

Junior Matt Rhude earned the win and senior Kurt Schmitz picked up a save. Rhude gave up one run (unearned) on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 6-1/3 innings. Schmitz finished up – allowing one earned run on two hits with no walks and strikeouts in two-thirds of a frame.

Sophomore catcher Luke Held was 3-for- 3, including two doubles, to spark the Panthers' offense.

“It's very exciting to win the regional,” said Rhude.

“It's huge, I was pretty confident in our team,” said Held about winning the regional. “It was a great performance by the team.

“I pitched pretty well. I battled when I had runners on. The team pulled together,” Rhude said.

The Raiders left eight runners on base. Rhude escaped jams in the fourth and fifth when Kiel put two runners on in both innings.

In the fourth, Kiel had runners had second and third with only one out but Rhude got the next batters to ground out.

“Matt's last three outings have been solid. He changed his speeds [versus Kiel],” said coach Cain.

Cain thought his team did a good job of hitting off-speed pitches well the other way. He was impressed with Held's work behind the plate and his batting.

“I call him the bull because

BASEBALL

KIEL 2

PLYMOUTH 4

Score by Innings
Kiel........................100 000 1 – 2 6 1
Plymouth................200 101 x – 4 8 1
Jordan Meyer, Tyler Konz (5) and
Jeremiah Hughes; Matt Rhude, Kurt
Schmitz (7) and Luke Held. W – Rhude.
L – Meyer. Save – Schmitz. 2Bs –
Plymouth, Held 2, Tyler Willeford, Eric
Nyg ard.

he stops everything. He stayed back on pitches,” the coach said.

“I went with the pitches and didn't get greedy – anything I can do to help,” Held said.

The Raiders scored in the first on errant pickoff throw by the pitcher which plated David Esswein. Esswein had led off with a walk, moved to second on Nathan Pieper's single and taken third on a fielder's choice.

Kiel tallied its other run in the seventh. Esswein hit a leadoff single, stole second and came home on Tyler Konz's one-out base hit.

Cain contributed two hits. Nygaard had a team-high two RBIs.

Pieper paced Kiel in hits with two.

“We pitched well enough to win the game. That's for sure but misplayed balls, not knowing where to throw the ball – that's been the story of our season,” said Raider head coach Brad Mey.

“Plymouth executed on those mistakes. We made game-one mistakes in game 25."

“Not having Jacob Winkel in the lineup hurt. That takes a .300 hitter out and we have to bat someone who we've DH'ed for most of the season,” Mey said.

Winkel was struck in the head with a ball during Thursday's practice.

Coach Cain thought his defense played well. PHS turned a double play in the third which squelched a Raider rally.

Jordan Meyer was the starting and losing pitcher. He gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts in four innings.


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