Baseball season ends at regions
Despite a surprising defeat in the first round of regional play, when Rugby High School fell to the Dunseith Dragons at Johnson Field, the Panthers rebounded to finish near the top.
Their loss came early in the Region 5 tournament, with the Panthers seeded third against the sixth-seeded Dragons, who had yet to win a single game all season.
The teams took to the diamond prepared to do battle, with the Dragons perhaps pushed on by a do-or-die mindset as they jumped out early in the game with a run in the first inning.
The stunned Panthers took their turn at bat at the bottom of the first inning, and Cy Luna started things off with a base hit to deep left field. Luna took advantage of Dragon errors to get to second and third base. Mayson McCabe brought Cy home with a sacrifice hit to tie the game, but no other Panther hits materialized that inning.
The top of the second saw Brady Schock on the mound, and the Dragons continued their fight with a pop fly that dropped in left field. A Panther double play followed and it seemed Rugby had found its mojo.
But a stray pitch hit another Dragon, and a series of Panther errors resulted in more Dragon runs.
The Dragons had the Panthers playing catch-up from that point, and the Panthers failed to close the score gap.
The Panthers and Dragons both continued in the Region 5 tournament, with the Dragons bound for a top-bracket game against Northern Lights at Cando’s Conyers Field. The Dragons would fall to Northern Lights and later, Harvey/Wells County.
The Panthers shook off their Dragon defeat and faced Bottineau Monday afternoon in Cando at Conyers Field.
The first inning caused some Panther fans to worry as the Braves saw an early 2-1 lead.
The Panthers loaded the bases in the second inning with two walks and a base hit, and they scored on another walk.
Pitcher Devan Michels sent Bottineau to the field quickly at the top of the third inning, and the Panthers continued their scoring drive when Kelby Gingerich deposited a fly ball into mid-left field for a base hit. After a Panther strikeout and walk, Gavin Schepp loaded the bases with a hit to center field. Schock walked, and Rugby scored again. Rugby ended the inning with a two-run lead.
The game heated up again for the Braves in the fifth inning when a line drive to far right field resulted in a triple for Samuel Halvorson and another Bottineau score. After a double by Riley Olson and a base hit by Ian Amsbaugh brought two more home, Bottineau led again, 6-4.
The Panthers fought back when Jordan Stone’s line drive led to more loaded bases, and a walk and base hits from Kelby Gingerich, Schock and Cy Luna recaptured the Panther lead. From there, the Panthers took a commanding 12-6 lead, despite a Bottineau pitcher change.
The Braves managed one more point in the seventh inning thanks to an RBI for Landon Rosendahl, but the damage was done, and the Panthers survived to see another fight this time, against Harvey/Wells County’s Hornets.
The Panthers began their two-round Tuesday against the Hornets with a one-run deficit in the second inning when two Rugby errors put Ethan Arnold and Logan Jenner at first and third bases. Hornet Tanner Grossman brought Arnold home to give HWC a 1-0 lead.
The Panthers tied the score and pulled ahead in the third inning when Cy Luna’s grounder, mishandled by the Hornets, landed him safe at first. Cy then took two more bases after a pitch escaped Hornet catcher Jenner.
Next, McCabe hit a home run over the far right field fence to bring both home and the score to 2-1.
The Panthers added more to their score in the fifth inning, when Cy Luna took first base on a Hornet error. McCabe batted Cy in yet again, this time, with a hit to center field, and Cy’s brother, pitcher Shayden Luna hit a fly ball to a hole in right/center field for a double that moved McCabe to third base. Kelby Gingerich batted McCabe in and landed safe at first on another Hornet error, and another missed pitch brought Shayden home.
HWC answered Rugby’s scoring offensive in the seventh inning when a balk by Shayden Luna walked Gage Balfour and an Owen McKinven fly ball to right center field brought Balfour home.
The Panthers subbed Stone in for Shayden Luna, and two more walks, one resulting from a player being hit by a stray pitch, walked another Hornet run home. But the Panthers limited the damage and finished with a 5-3 win.
The Panthers regrouped between the HWC game and their next one against Northern Lights, that day.
Although they fell behind 2-0 in the first inning, the Panthers roared back again, and tied the score 2-2 on Comet errors at the top of the second inning.
McCabe continued his hitting streak for the day with two RBIs at the top of the fourth inning, after a Schepp RBI put the Panthers ahead. The Panthers ended the inning with a 6-2 lead, which would only build.
Northern Lights fought back, adding two more runs to their score, ending the fourth trailing 4-6.
The Panthers built on their score through the seventh inning, and the Comets could only manage one more run.
The Panthers advanced to another tournament berth with an 18-5 win over the Comets.
Coach Kendall Scheive said after Tuesday’s games, “(The) team had a great day. Mayson has been swinging the bat well! We had a lot of timely hits.”
The Panthers faced North Star in the next round, which was postponed until Thursday due to rain.
Rugby returned to Conyers Field prepared for a fight against the Bearcats, who were undefeated in regional play.
Pitcher Devan Michels denied any runs to the Bearcats for the first four innings of a largely defensive game. Bearcat pitcher Thomas Nikolaisen held back the Panthers, and the score remained 0-0 until the bottom of the fifth, when the Bearcats saw a double on a Panther error. A walk put North Star’s Hunter Borstad on first, and Brody Schneibel relieved Michels.
The Bearcats’ defense stayed strong, putting the Panthers down in three quick outs before unleashing an offense that had Rugby scrambling as the Bearcats moved players home with bunts that cost the Panthers both errors and runs. The Panthers stopped the damage after North Star scored three runs, three hits and left three players on base.
After a ground out at first base and two caught pop fly balls, the Panthers finished the game, defeated 0-4.
Although North Star moves on to state, the Panthers still ended their season in second place for Region 5.
“(The) kids played great today. We just couldn’t come up with hits when we needed to,” Coach Kendall Scheive reflected after the tournament. “Sometimes you play well and end up getting beat.”
“North Star is a good team,” he added. “We lose three seniors that did an awful lot for us, but there will be guys ready to step up for us. We definitely feel like we will compete well again next season.”
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