Panthers end baseball season with North Star battles | News, Sports, Jobs

Sue Sitter/PCT The Rugby Panthers pose with their second place plaque at the end of the Region 5 baseball tournament May 25.

The Rugby Panthers came back from an 8-1 baseball semi-final loss to the North Star Bearcats with a 7-2 win over the Northern Lights Comets and earned a second chance at a Region 5 tournament win in Cando on May 25.

Hopes of a win over the Bearcats to keep the Panthers alive to the final round arose in the second chance game as the Panthers went 5-2 up in the fourth inning. However, hope faded when Rugby’s lead faded later in the game.

North Star used their home field advantage to edge the Panthers 6-5 and slam a ticket to the state.

Like most teams in the area, the Panthers found the Bearcats tough opponents during the regular season. Rugby last played the regular season against the Bearcats and North Star broke the Panthers’ unbeaten streak with a 4-0 shutout.

The Panthers went into Regionals number two against the undefeated Bearcats.

When the Panthers met the Bearcats again, this time in the semifinals, Rugby North Star denied a shutout with an RBI from catcher Erik Foster. However, the run came in the seventh inning when the Bearcats had already built a 7-run lead.

Rugby had a second chance depending on whether the Panthers eliminated the Northern Lights Comets from the last round. The Panthers had met and defeated the Comets in the regular season and did so again, finishing 7-2.

The Panthers’ second chance came 20 minutes after the end of the game against Northern Lights.

Fresh from the battle, Rugby faced North Star again. A second-round win meant another opportunity to compete for a berth in the state the next day.

The Panthers’ offense started with a base hit by Logan Harner attempting to steal second base. North Star’s Jack Ahlberg tagged him. A walk and base hit by Panthers pitcher Brody Schneibel put two more on base, but the Bearcats left them stranded.

An RBI from the Bearcats’ Garrett Westlind gave North Star his first run in the second inning. The Panthers responded with a double from Gavin Schepp, who set the stage for a tie as he capitalized on Bearcats errors to get to third base and then home.

Harner, taking first base after a dropped fly to left field, tried again to steal second base. This time he made it. Another mistake and a walk strained the bases for the Panthers. Foster struck in two with a fly to deep right field, giving Rugby a 3-1 lead. Garrett Sullivan followed with an RBI sacrifice for rugby. The inning ended with Rugby leading 4-1.

The Bearcats found a second run after a Panthers error, but Rugby held them to two runs.

The top of the fourth inning saw another double from Schepp and the Panthers found their momentum again. Harner hit Schepp to give the Panthers a 5-2 lead.

In the fifth inning, another Bearcats run was hit by Parker Simon.

Simon took the pitching mound in the sixth inning, denying the Panthers any further hits for the game.

Westlind came on in a run for North Star in the sixth inning, shrinking Rugby’s lead to 5–4.

Errors and a base hit by Hunter Hagler put the Bearcats on point in the seventh inning before another RBI from North Star’s Charles Bisbee gave the Bearcats the win.

After a post-game briefing with his players, Panthers coach Travis Risovi said he was proud of the team.

“I told them later that one day when they look back on the season, I don’t want them to look back on something negative that happened, that we lost a game that we were able to win because baseball was a long season for.” us and there were so many positive aspects for us”, said Risovi.

“We lost three games to the same team so kudos to North Star” he added. “They beat us and they are a very good team and so were we.

“We ended up at the wrong end tonight, but not for lack of effort or lack of trying. And we gave everything and lost.” he said.

Risovi said the North Star team, made up mostly of sophomores and juniors, would see Rugby’s returning players next year.

Schneibel, Foster, Harner, midfielder Macen Heisler and 11 other players will return to Rugby Panthers baseball next year.

“Every game is a new game” said Risovi. “We know we have a big returning group next year and they have the same group returning next year. We’ll fight it out again. We will fight to the end and see who comes out on top next year.”

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