So close: Panthers fall in memorable state battle

by Matt Kraus Review Correspondent


JAKE STEINHARDT of Plymouth lines a pinch-hit single in the fifth inning of Friday’s state baseball tournament game against Brookfield Central. The Lancer catcher is Mike Rufer. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley JAKE STEINHARDT of Plymouth lines a pinch-hit single in the fifth inning of Friday’s state baseball tournament game against Brookfield Central. The Lancer catcher is Mike Rufer. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley MEQUON – The Plymouth Panthers baseball team headed to the State Summer Baseball Tournament at Kapco Park on the campus of Concordia University with a mission to fulfill.

“We believe we can beat anyone. We want to prove we can play with the big schools,” said senior catcher Luke Held.

The Panthers proved exactly that as they gave tBrookfield Central all it could handle and more before falling short, 2-1, in a terrific pitchers’ duel in the semifi- nals Friday afternoon. The Lancers went on to capture their fourth state title with a 9-2 drubbing of Homestead in the championship game Friday night.

Homestead defeated Oak Creek, 7-5, in the other semifinal game played earlier Friday.


LUKE HOJNACKI of Plymouth dives back safely as Brookfield Central first baseman Andrew Schneider waits for the pitcher’s pickoff throw in Friday’s state baseball semifinals. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley LUKE HOJNACKI of Plymouth dives back safely as Brookfield Central first baseman Andrew Schneider waits for the pitcher’s pickoff throw in Friday’s state baseball semifinals. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley The Panthers’ matchup against the Lancers reacquainted the teams from a June 21 meeting which the Lancers won, 13-1.

PHS senior shortstop Clay Henning said, “We forgot about the last game. Baseball is that kind of game. Anything can happen.”

Central entered the game with a 27-6 record, but without starting shortstop Riley Richarz after he broke his hand during the team’s sectional final win.

The Panthers came into the game 28-4 and on an 11- game winning streak, including outscoring their three regional and sectional opponents, 28-2.

Senior Elijah Goodman earned the win with a two-hit shutout, including 13 strikeouts. The right-hander gave up one earned run and two walks.


ZAC CAIN, Plymouth junior, fires a pitch to a Brookfield Central batter in Friday’s state baseball semifinals. Also shown is Panther third baseman Luke Hojnacki. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley ZAC CAIN, Plymouth junior, fires a pitch to a Brookfield Central batter in Friday’s state baseball semifinals. Also shown is Panther third baseman Luke Hojnacki. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley Cain was the losing pitcher after giving up two runs, one earned, surrendering four hits, striking out six batters and walking three.

“It was a highly intense, competitive game – a great game to be involved in,” said Panther head coach Butch Cain.

“Our guys came ready and were highly energized. A little but of luck, a pitch here, a hit there and we move on [to the finals].

“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. They have worked hard all year and are resilient. They represented themselves, the team, their school and the community second to none,” said coach Cain.

“Plymouth is absolutely a well-coached team. They deserved to be here,” said Lancer head coach Jeff Bigler.

“The way they came out here and played, they are as good as anyone in the state. We were just fortunate to get one more pitch and one more hit. Absolutely, this game could’ve gone either way.”

The Lancers broke through with the first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. After Cain struck out the inning’s leadoff batter, Aaron Hammond hit a ball into the right-center-field gap that right fielder Justin Picard was not able to haul in after a long run. Hammond advanced to second base on the error.

Andrew Schnieder followed with a line drive that was headed to left field. Third baseman Luke Hojnacki was able to jump and get his glove on the ball – deflecting the ball to the pitcher’s mound. Hojnacki’s deflection allowed courtesy runner Matt Liewen to advance to third base.

Josh Peltier followed Schneider with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt, scoring Liewen for the Lancers’ 1-0 lead. Peltier was retired at first base for the second out. Cain struck out the following batter to end the Lancers fifth inning.

Hojnacki led off the Panthers’ fifth inning with the team’s first hit of the game and stole second base. Goodman struck out the next two Panthers batters before freshman Jake Steinhardt reported as a pinch hitter for Picard. Steinhardt singled to right field, driving in Hojnacki and tying the game 1-1.

The Lancers quickly responded to Plymouth’s run by scoring in the top of the sixth. Matt Ausloos led off the inning by walking and then advanced to second on the Panthers’ third error of the game. After Cain was able to retire the next two batters, Riley Keays singled to left field, scoring Ausloos from third and giving the Lancers a 2-1 advantage.

The Panthers threatened to score in the bottom of the sixth. Henning led off and walked and stole second base. Tyler Willeford followed with a walk but Goodman took control of the inning by striking out No. 3 hitter Cain and cleanup batter Luke Held, and getting Jake Richards to fly out to right field to end the threat.

The Lancers again threatened to score in the seventh. With Schneider on third base, the Lancers attempted another squeeze bunt. Cain reacted to the bunt that was near the first base line by scooping the ball with his glove and in the same motion flipping the ball to catcher Held who was able to tag Schneider for the second out of the inning.

The Panthers had one more opportunity in the bottom of the seventh when Matt Olig was able to reach second on a two-base throwing error by the shortstop on a grounder. Once again, Goodman was able to reach back and take control of the game. He struck out the final two Panthers batters.

Following the game, Cain talked about his pitching and specifi- cally the pitch to Keays.

“I pitched a good game. I would like to get a couple pitches back. I hung a curve at the end.”

Following the game the Panthers held their heads high.

“We are proud to keep up with a team like that,” said Henning. “Goodman is the hardest throwing pitcher we faced this year. We knew about him before the game and we were prepared for him.”

“Their guy [Goodman] found his spots when he needed to,” said coach Cain. “We were a little overaggressive at times. He had command [of his pitches] when he needed it.

“Zac and Luke Held were in agreement on about every pitch. They executed the game plan very well.”

Goodman was impressed with the Panthers.

“They’re a very good team, disciplined, and a very solid team,” he said.

“They have a very tough lineup. I made some pretty good pitches.”

Goodman did a nice job of mixing his curveball in with a blazing fastball.

“I think Elijah threw about 120 pitches today. He looked like he was getting stronger as he was going,” said Bigler. “I wasn’t worried about the elevated pitch count.”

A game-opening Panther error in the top of the first inning was quickly erased by a double play. However, a walk, stolen base and balk by Cain put a Lancer runner on third base with two outs. Cain was able to induce a ground ball to shortstop to end the inning.

Hojnacki was the first Panther to reach base after being interfered with by the catcher with two outs in the second inning. Hojnacki stole second but was stranded there.

Ausloos, the Lancers’ leadoff hitter, produced the first hit of the game in his second at-bat during the top of the third but was thrown out trying to steal second by Held to end the inning.

Schneider had a game-high two hits.

BROOKFIELD CENTRAL
2

PLYMOUTH
1

Score by Innings
Brookfield Central..000 011 0 – 2 4 3
Plymouth.................000 010 0 – 1 2 3

Elijah Goodman and Mike Rufer; Zac Cain and Luke Held. W – Goodm__ an. L – Cain.


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