Panther baseball faces challenging schedule
The Rugby High School Panthers fought to redeem themselves last Thursday after a home-opener loss to North Star when they faced the Harvey/Wells County Hornets.
They also fought the elements.
“Where’s Dorothy? I think I see her house swirling around here somewhere,” joked a referee as he took his place near first base on Rugby High’s baseball diamond. The Panthers took the field, turning their backs to the fierce wind whenever possible and securing their hats.
Pitcher Cy Luna began the inning with two walks, and a Harvey steal positioned the Hornets at third base, threatening to score the first run. But a chopper hit by Harvey’s Landen Monge failed to get Harvey to home base, and Luna struck out Ethan Arnold, stranding Monge and sending the Hornets to the diamond.
Luna batted first for the Panthers, sending a pop fly into the mitt of Harvey’s center fielder. Two more caught fly balls put the Panthers back into the outfield for the top of the second inning.
Both teams seemed to keep their focus, despite occasional debris floating through the diamond and dust from the infield making clouds around players.
Harvey threatened again when catcher Owen McKinven’s grounder landed him on first base, and a bobbled ball at the plate provided an opportunity to steal. A Logan Jenner bunt moved Jenner to first base, but when McKinven tried to run to third base, Panthers Cole Schneibel and Tim Mueller were waiting for him, and Mayson McCabe tagged McKinven out at second base.
Another Hornet out followed, but a walk and a base hit put Hornets in scoring position again, before Hornet Matthew Kittleson hit a short hopper to Cy Luna, who threw the ball to Kyler Gingerich for a third out.
Shayden Luna set a Panther score in motion when a low infield fly popped out of Hornets’ Ethan Nitz’s mitt, landing Luna safely at first base.
Luna then took the opportunity to steal second base when a Hornet pitch got away from McKinven. Next, a Gingerich fly ball to right field moved Luna to third. A Devan Michels bunt sent the Hornet infield scrambling to stop a Panther score, but Luna slid safely home.
The Hornets stopped the Panthers in their tracks with an out at third base and a strike out.
The third inning ended with a 1-1 tie after Hornet Hunter Schuh’s single set up another scoring opportunity, and a steal and an Arnold fly ball get Schuh to third base. After Jenner hit a grounder to right field, Schuh slid to home plate for the first Hornet run.
The tie continued into extra innings, each team holding the other back. The game saw changes at the pitcher’s mound, with Shayden Luna and Brody Schneibel ending the last three Harvey turns at bat with no hits for the Hornets.
The bottom of the eighth inning saw a base hit for Michels, who stole second base moments later. A sacrifice bunt by Gingerich advanced Michels to third base, and a Schneibel single brought Michels home and secured the win for the Panthers.
The Panthers took to the road for their next two games later last week, when they played two different teams last Friday.
Coach Kendall Schieve told the Tribune the Panthers faced both Carrington and New Rockford that day.
“We ended up losing to Carrington 6-5,” Schieve noted. “We went up 4-0 at one point; they kind of chipped away at that. They went up 5-4, and we scored a run at the top of the 7th to tie it, and they scored a run in the bottom of the 7th for a win,” Schieve recounted.
“But Carrington is a very good team. They’ll probably be at state this year. I was as pleased with that effort as I have been with a team on both sides of the ball.”
“We played well,” Schieve said of the game. “We had good at bats; Mayson McCabe threw great on the mound for us. And we made, primarily, most of the plays.”
“Then,” he continued, “we turned around and played New Rockford the next game.”
After taking the bus to New Rockford, the Panthers met their next challenge in the New Rockford/Sheyenne Rockets.
“In New Rockford, we had some guys who hadn’t thrown for a little while, trying to get them work, and again, New Rockford’s a good team, too,” Scheive added. “And we didn’t make plays in that game when we needed to.
“We didn’t hit bad; again, we were up 4-0 at one point, and ended up losing 13-5. But they had a couple of big innings, and we just didn’t respond. We didn’t make plays, and that can happen when you get (tired).”
Schieve said weather continues to test the Panthers. Snow last weekend caused a game set for Monday at Rolette High to be postponed, and one set for Tuesday at Velva was cancelled, according to Rugby High School’s online sports calendar.
“We’re challenged right now with a lot of games in a short period of time,” Schieve said. “We’ve got a region game against Dunseith here, a double header, and two region games Saturday in Bottineau, so there’s just a lot getting thrown at us right now.”
However, the Panthers’ mood stays optimistic. “We’re starting to take steps in the right direction; starting to make strides, and hopefully, we can keep doing that and ultimately get to where we’re playing our best baseball by the middle and end of May,” Schieve said.
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