It took near-perfection to knock out our Panthers

IF YOU GIVE UP only one hit and one run in a baseball game, you should feel pretty sure of winning the game.

But that’s not always the case, as the Plymouth Panthers unfortunately discovered last week in the WIAA summer baseball semifinals.

The Panthers left for Kapco Field in Mequon last Friday with high hopes and the support of fellow students, family, friends and local fans, only to run into a landmark performance by their first opponent, Muskego.

In the scenario outlined in the first paragraph – which was what transpired for the Panthers and starting pitcher Holden Reilly – it would take a no-hit shutout by the other side to spell defeat, and that was exactly what Muskego pitcher Rob Zolecki did to them.

It meant a bitter end to a sweet season for the Panthers, who finished 27-7 (the second-most wins in a season in school history) and won their first sectional title in three years, earning the trip to state.

But the last game should not take away any of the luster of the season as a whole.

The Panthers can take some solace in the fact that it took a one-of-a-kind effort – actually, only the fifth no-hitter in the 54- year history of the summer baseball tournament – to keep them from a shot at another state title.

They also can take pride in knowing they will be the last Plymouth baseball team to reach the summer baseball state tournament.

That’s because, after 54 years, declining numbers of participating schools led the WIAA to drop summer baseball after this season and go to a single, spring baseball season starting next year.

During the 54 years that the WIAA held the summer baseball tournament, Plymouth was a frequent competitor. The Panthers made it to state 13 times, meaning they took part in almost one-quarter of the tournaments.

The high point came in 1982, when the Panthers won it all with a 9-1 win over Brown Deer in West Bend.

There were a lot of ties running through the 13 Panther teams that made the trip to state over the years, with family ties, generations of the same family and more.

It began in 1968, when the Panthers played in their first summer state tournament with a roster that included Scott Richards. Richards came back to coach the Panthers to their 1982 state title, with a roster that included Butch Cain as the starting catcher. It was Cain who then coached the Panthers to what will be their last state summer tournament appearance this year.

That continuity reflects the kind of support and dedication that is found time and again in sports and academic programs at high schools throughout Sheboygan County, and helps fuel the continuing success Plymouth and Sheboygan County continue to exhibit in so many areas.

That it took such an extraordinary effort to keep the Panther baseball team from winning it all does them – and all who supported them – proud.

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