Panthers edge Huskies, take division lead

PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers held off a late rally by New Holstein to earn a key 3-2 win in the Big East Conference large-school division baseball race here Monday evening.

The victory pushed the Panthers past NH into first place in the division. PHS, which has won eight straight, hiked its league record to 15-2 (17-3 overall). Plymouth avenged a 4-3 loss to the Huskies on June 5.

The Huskies slipped to 13-2 in the BEC (13-4 overall).

“This was a big game for us. I’m proud of the kids. This [win] puts us closer to where we need to be [winning the division title],” said Panther head coach Butch Cain.

NH scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to pull within 3-2. Owen Olson’s RBI double made it 3-1. Olson later scored on a throwing error by the catcher which sliced Plymouth’s lead to 3-2.

PHS reliever Ben Picard stranded runners at first and second by getting Nolan Beirne to fly out which ended the game. Picard picked up a save.

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Taylor Struve reached first on an infield error with one out. Struve moved to second on a groundout. He stole third and scored when the catcher made an errant throw past the third baseman.

PHS tallied two runs in the sixth to go up 3-0. Cooper Gosse’s fly ball knocked in Taylor Struve. Joe Steinhardt followed with a single which drove in Matt Pohl who was courtesy running for catcher Will Birkholz.

Jake Steinhardt pitched 5-1/3 scoreless innings before having to be removed by rule because he reached the 100-pitch count. The senior right hander struck out a season-high 10 batters, allowed only two hits and walked five (one intentional).

Steinhardt struck out two batters in a row to escape a bases loaded jam in the fourth.

Picard threw the final 1-2/3 frames and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with a pair of walks and zero strikeouts

Olson took the loss and went the distance. He surrendered two earned runs on only four hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

Olson was the only batter in the game with multiple hits as he went 3-for-4, including a double.

“It was a pitchers’ duel. Jake had good velocity and pitched to situations real well. He elevated when he needed to and kept the ball down when he needed to,” said Cain.

“Ben bore down when he had to. He did a nice job getting a save. Will blocked pitches well and called a good game.

“Joe Steinhardt had a clutch hit. It was an important at-bat for Cooper on his sacrifice fly,” said the coach.

“As a whole, we pressured their defense [with aggressive baserunning]. We got a lot of people in motion which helped. We kept our composure late.”

Struve, Pohl and Isaac Fintak had one stolen base each for PHS.

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