Tough loss for Panthers in sectional semis

Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

JAKE STEINHARDT, Plymouth senior, rips a double in the fifth inning of Monday’s sectional baseball game versus Kiel. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley JAKE STEINHARDT, Plymouth senior, rips a double in the fifth inning of Monday’s sectional baseball game versus Kiel. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley NEW HOLSTEIN – Missed scoring opportunities cost the Plymouth Panthers as they lost, 3-1, to Kiel in the sectional baseball semifinals here Monday afternoon.

It was a frustrating defeat for the Panthers who left nine runners on base, including three innings in which two were stranded.

“We had early opportunities but we weren’t able to capitalize on a couple of Kiel miscues and sustain momentum,” said Panther head coach Butch Cain.

“We weren’t able to create enough activity on the bases or string hits together. It’s difficult to score runs if you don’t get five or six guys to the plate in an inning.”

The No. 2-seeded Panthers ended a strong season with a 23-7 record. Kiel, which lost twice to PHS in Big East Conference large-school division play this season, improved to 18-8 as the No. 3 seed.

Kiel tallied two runs in the top of the sixth inning to seize a 3-1 lead. Jon Meyer and Austin Conrad drew back-to-back walks to start the frame. Michael Endries moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt.

Trace Woepse followed with a ground single to left field which drove in a run. The next batter, Luby cas Schema, delivered a ground single to left which gave Kiel a 3-1 lead. Ben Picard then relieved starting pitcher Jake Steinhardt and retired the next two batters which ended the frame.

PHS grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first. Ben Picard led off and reached on infield error. Two outs later, Will Birkholz lined a single which advanced Taylor Struve to second. Joe Steinhardt followed with a grounder to the shortstop who made a two-base throwing error past the first baseman which plated Struve.

The Raiders tied the game, 1-1, in the fifth. Schema singled up the middle with one away. Trent Nickel’s bloop single to right with two outs tied the contest.

PHS missed a good scoring chance in the third. Jake Steinhardt led off with a single. Struve followed with an infield single which put moved Steinhardt to second.

Will Birkholz then laid down a sacrifice bunt which advanced the runners to second and third. Joe Steinhardt followed with a ground ball to the shortstop who fired the ball to catcher Austin Goehring who tagged out Jake Steinhardt. Jake Steinhardt had initially tried to score on the grounder but was tagged out by Goehring while trying to retreat to third. The next batter flied out and PHS came up empty.

In the fifth and sixth, the Panthers were unable to cash in on scoring threats. In the fifth, Jake Steinhardt lined a double to rightcenter field with one out. After a fly-out, Steinhardt was thrown out by Goehring on an attempted steal of third.

In the sixth, Cooper Gosse was hit by a pitch and Isaac Fintak followed with a single which advanced Gosse to second with one out. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base. The runners were left stranded as the next two batters were retired on a ground ball and called third strike, respectively.

Jon Meyer relieved Raider starting pitcher Austin Conrad to start the seventh. He fanned the first batter on a called third strike, walked Jake Steinhardt, struck out the next hitter on a high fastball and got the final batter out on a fly ball. Meyer picked up a save.

“We do tend to battle more but today was a big game and we all got a little nervous,” said Panther junior center fielder Taylor Struve.

“We should’ve hit the ball better. Conrad is a good pitcher but we’ve seen better, and that’s nothing against him. He hits the zone well and has a good curveball.

“I was very pleased with our season. Nobody expected us to win the conference, so I was pretty happy with that,” said Struve.

The Panthers, who shared the large-school division title with New Holstein, had a young team this season, with only one senior in Jake Steinhardt.

“We are proud of our team,” said Cain. “We had a really nice year.

“Jake pitched another strong game and played big for us again,” said the PHS coach.

Conrad earned the win in a starting role. He allowed one unearned run on five hits with two walks, a hit batter and five strikeouts in six innings.

Jake Steinhardt started on the mound and took the loss. He gave up three earned runs on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in 5-1/3 innings. Picard threw the last 1-2/3 frames and allowed no walks and hits while striking out one.

Jake Steinhardt led PHS in hits with two. Schema was 3-for-3 to key the Raiders’ offense.

“We came in with the mindset that if we put the bat on the ball and make plays, we’re going to win,” said Raider head coach Brad Mey.

“We didn’t show Conrad to them this year and that was to our advantage. He mixed it up [fastball and curveball]. When Meyer came in with that velocity I knew it would be tough for them to score two runs.

“We came up with the clutch hits. Our outfield was strong and our infield made some good plays. It was a good team effort all around,” said Mey.

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