Rallies fall short, baseball season ends
HARVEY – The Rugby High School baseball team was right there in both games. A handful of miscues separated the Panthers from the championship round at the Region 5 Tournament, and a pair of losses ended their season Monday.
The Panthers dropped a 3-2 game to Northern Lights early in the afternoon, forcing them into an elimination game with the Braves. RHS fell, 8-6, in eight innings to cap the year.
Bottineau jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but RHS sophomore pitcher Evan Burckhard (Towner) settled in and picked off a pair of runners at first base in the second inning. The Panthers responded in the bottom half and tied the game at 3-3 as sophomore Hunter Hager and freshman Anders Johnson each had an RBI. Sophomore Blaine Rosencrans (Towner) scored on an error.
“We hit the ball, but not enough,” RHS coach Kendall Schieve said. “We fielded the ball, but not enough.”
The Panthers (8-10 overall) pushed across two more in the third inning to take the lead, but the Braves tied the game in the fourth.
Junior shortstop Eli Luna (Towner) came through in a big way in the bottom of the fourth, when he sprinted home from second base as Burckhard reached on an error. The throw home was in time, but Luna dived around the tag to give his team a 6-5 lead.
“I knew the kid bobbled it at second and I realized the catcher was still behind the plate,” Luna said. “I dove for the outside corner and got lucky and slapped it.”
Said Schieve: “The momentum was up. He made a great play getting around that tag. That was a big swing for us, but little things kept taking the wind out of our sails.”
RHS junior reliever Bennie Mygland gave up the tying run in the fifth inning to Bottineau senior Andrew Hill, but Mygland struck out five and the scored was deadlocked through the seventh.
Hill, also pitching in relief, struck out eight after entering with one out in the third inning.
An extra inning was all it took for the Braves. Hill led off and was hit by pitch before stealing second and third. Sophomore Parker Engelhard followed with a walk and junior Luke Amsbaugh’s groundout drove in Hill for the winning run.
“I told them you made a few deflating errors, but I give them a lot of credit for having heart,” Bottineau coach Zach Keller said. “They’re not going down without a fight.”
A rare error at shortstop from Luna allowed the eighth BHS run to score.
Johnson was left on first to close the game as Haman narrowly grounded out. His hopper smacked off the glove of freshman second baseman Casey Tooke, but Amsbaugh, at shortstop, snagged the ball for an off-balance throw for the final out.
“That’s just how it goes sometimes,” Luna said. “You’re always gonna have these days where it doesn’t work out and today was one of those days.”
RHS junior Eric Hooker led the Panthers at the plate, batting 2 for 4 with an RBI double, a stolen base and two runs scored.
The Panthers lose seniors Haman and Karson DeMers, but will return a strong core of underclassmen next year.
Northern Lights 3, RHS 2
Northern Lights sophomore pitcher Jalen Pfeifer kept RHS guessing all afternoon, fanning 14 batters in a complete game of 100 pitches.
Luna also pitched a complete game, but received little help at the plate and the Panthers fell 3-2.
“It was nice to have some nice weather for once, and it loosened me up,” Pfeifer said. “My curveball wasn’t as effective today, but at times I got ’em to change up speeds and did anything to give me an advantage.”
RHS had runners in scoring position in the top of the first, but Luna and Haman stayed there as Pfeifer struck out the next three. He struck out the side in the second inning and had multiple strikeouts in innings four through six.
“He came to play and he definitely came to compete,” NL coach Seth Engelstad said. “Every inning he said he was good and ‘leave me in.’ “
The Panthers had just three hits in the game, and Eric Hooker scored both runs on passed balls in the fourth and sixth innings.
Luna pitched a strong game, giving up just four hits and striking out eight. The Comets struck in the third inning, scoring all three runs on a double to the left-field fence by sophomore Karson Schoening.
The frame opened with a dropped third strike and junior Brady Knudson reaching first. Luna picked up a pair of outs, but the bases loaded with a single from sophomore Jacob Loing and classmate David Arstein being hit by a pitch.
Schoening’s deep ball drove RHS sophomore Ryan Michels into a scary, shoulder-crunching wreck at the fence. Michels had to be helped off the field and the unfortunate incident ended his afternoon, with the exception of a pinch-running opportunity in the following game.
Hooker led with the team’s lone extra-base hit and finished 1 for 3 with a double and was hit by pitch.
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