Panthers gain share of BEC championships

KIEL – The Plymouth Panthers earned a share of their second straight Big East Conference baseball large-school division and overall championships with a 6-1, eight-inning victory over Kiel here Sunday afternoon.

PHS, which won its 16th straight BEC game, tied for first in the division and overall conference races with New Holstein at 20-2. The Panthers, who shared both titles with Kiel last year, finished the regular season with a 22-6 record.

“We are happy about the guys winning a share of the conference championship which was one of our goals. We never let anything get us down. All of the guys came together and they all believed they could do it,” said Panther head coach Butch Cain.

Cain was very happy to see his players rally together to win 16 straight BEC games after what could have been a deflating, seventh-inning loss to New Holstein. The Huskies scored two runs in the bottom of seventh to edge PHS, 4-3, on June 5. PHS bounced back and went on their long BEC winning streak which included a 3-2 win over NH on June 26.

“They [Panthers] never got too high or too low, and we played out the season one game at a time in order to put ourselves in the postion to share the title. We commend and congratulate them for believing and trusting in what we could accomplish together,” said Cain.

The Kiel game was rained out Friday night which necessitated a makeup on Sunday. The Panthers scored five runs in the top of the eighth to take a 6-1 lead. The big hit was Isaac Fintak’s two-run double which made it 5-1. Fintak later scored on a balk which put PHS up 6-1.

The other two runs scored on an RBI single by Will Birkholz and a suicide-squeeze bunt by Joe Steinhardt in which he was credited with a sacrifice and RBI. Ben Picard’s double started the eighth.

Kiel took a 1-0 lead in the third on Jon Meyer’s home run. PHS tied the game in the sixth when Birkholz was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

The Raiders almost won the game in the seventh. Andrew Winkel was thrown out at home by right fielder Jake Steinhardt while trying to score from third on a fly-out. Steinhardt’s throw went to catcher Birkholz who made a nice tag on Winkel. Kiel left the bases loaded in the frame.

Jake Steinhardt, who started on the mound, and reliever Jack Nytes combined on a four-hitter, with Nytes gaining the win. Steinhardt pitched six innings and allowed one run on two hits with five walks and eight strikeouts. Nytes went two innings and gave up no runs on two hits with zero walks and two whiffs.

Nathan Goehring was Kiel’s starting hurler and gave up one earned run on six hits with six walks and one strikeout. Harrison Skrepenski took the loss in relief.

“The pitchers and defense for both teams were outstanding. It was a great high school game,” said Cain.

“Jake’s performance [pitching] displayed his heart and determination to lead the squad as our only senior and a four year veteran. He never gave in, worked inside and out, and attacked when he needed to. Jack did a fantastic job.”

Aiden Reilly and Jake Steinhardt led PHS in hits with two each. Fintak and Birkholz had a team-high two RBIs apiece. Ben Picard walked three times.

Meyer paced the Raiders in hits with two.

Kiel finished 16-6 in the BEC and ended the regular season at 16-8.

PHS will host a regional final Wednesday, July 12 at 5:30 p m. against the winner of the Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah/Cedar Grove-Belgium first-round game which was scheduled for Tuesday.

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