BASEBALL: Long time coming
The Rugby Panther Baseball team got their “seat at the table” last Thursday as they defeated the Rolette/Rolla Comets 11-1 in the Region 5 Championship game. It is the first time since 2004 that the Panthers have made it to State, and the sixth time in program history.
“We talked to the guys about them making the most out of the opportunity,” said Coach Greg Foster, “many of the games we had lost in the region during the regular season we were in but just couldn’t finish”
Rolette/Rolla scored the first run of the game, an unearned run, in the bottom of the second inning. Both teams stranded a various amount of runners over the first few innings but the Comets were able to take advantage of a Panther miscue. Rugby would tie the game up in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by freshman Shayden Luna then take their first lead of the game at 2-1 in the top of the fifth. Senior Evan Burckhard drove in the go-ahead run, which would also end up being the winning run, on a two-out double that scored junior Anders Johnson.
“We were able to gain confidence throughout the season and it picked up as we went through the tournament,” mentioned Coach Foster.
The Panthers then broke the game open as they sent nine batters to the plate in the top of the sixth and 11 in the top of the seventh. Nine total runs over the final two innings was more than enough for Rugby to claim the championship.
Offensively for Rugby, Burckhard led the way going 4-for-5 with four RBIs. Johnson was 3-for-5 with a run scored as well as a run driven in. Luna went 2-for-4, also scoring a run and driving one in. Panthers did receive production from up and down the line up, and also had courtesy runners step in and play well. As far as the pitching goes, Johnson started the game and went the first five innings giving up just two hits, seven strikeouts, one walk and the unearned run. Junior Dillon Marco pitched the final two innings, striking out three and walking one. At one point, the two Rugby pitchers combined to set down 10 straight batters in order.
Rugby won six out of their last seven games, including going 4-0 during the Region 5 Tournament. They were the fourth seed, but it didn’t seem to bother them at all. With an 11-11 record going into the State Tournament in Fargo, the Panthers faced Thompson in quarterfinal action on Thursday. The tournament is being held at Newman Outdoor Field and wraps up today.
Hauser is the sports director for AM 1450 KZZJ radio.