Strong finish for Rugby’s Babe Ruth season
Rugby’s Panthers finished their summer season near the top at the 2019 Babe Ruth Tournament, held Monday through Wednesday at Rugby’s Johnsen Field and Harvey’s baseball complex.
The Babe Ruth squad survived elimination rounds the first two days of the tournament before they fell to New Rockford-Sheyenne’s Black Sox.
Along the way, the Panthers battled a team with many familiar faces, twice.
Monday, the second-seeded Panthers defeated Belcourt in five innings 16-6 but fell to the Towner Iron Birds in a game that seemed likely to end early as well. However, when the Panthers closed a 12-0 score gap to 12-4 in the fifth inning and scored four more runs before the game ended with a 14-8 Towner win. Among the Iron Birds are several athletes who participate in Rugby High baseball and track and field, and some fans cheered as much for Iron Birds Cy Luna, Austin and Robert Dibble and Brady Schock as they did for Panther players.
The Panthers went on to redeem themselves Tuesday, defeating Cando 5-1 and Bottineau 3-1.
Rugby climbed back up the tournament ladder, facing the Iron Birds again Wednesday.
Towner jumped ahead early with one run in the first inning, and Rugby struggled to connect with the ball as Towner’s Alexis Duran tripled, batting in runners Luna and Landon Kitzman.
Rugby came alive in the fifth inning, when Rugby’s Dylan Bartsch set a rally in motion that brought in five runs to put the Panthers in the lead 6-3. The Panthers’ defense roared onto the field in the sixth and seventh innings, holding the lead steady.
After the hard-won victory, the Panthers prepared for the undefeated New Rockford-Sheyenne Black Sox. Surviving two games against them meant traveling to state for the Babe Ruth league.
The Black Sox had been watching the Panthers and Iron Birds, and some players had discussed Panther pitching styles they saw and developed strategies.
Panther pitcher Logan Harner was second in batting order in the first inning, popping a fly ball to first base after Macen Heisler struck out. Brody Schneibel followed, striking out as well.
New Rockford-Sheyenne established a 3-0 lead in the first, setting the pace for the rest of the game.
An Erik Foster base hit in the second inning gave the Panthers hope, and a Jayden Ripplinger sacrifice bunt advanced Foster to second base, but two more strikeouts followed to strand him.
The Panthers brought out their defensive game, holding the Black Sox to just one more run for the next two innings, but Rugby batters failed to connect with the ball, and NRS’ pitchers shut the Panthers out.
Fifth and sixth inning Black Sox scoring drives seemed to wear the Panthers out, and the sixth inning saw New Rockford-Sheyenne punch their ticket to state with a 9-0 win.
“They played five good innings of baseball,” Coach Dillon Marco said of the Panthers after the game. “They just had that one bad inning, and it kind of blew up from there. They played well through the whole tournament.”
Marco said of the two games against Towner, “A lot of (the team members) know each other from high school baseball, so it’s always a fun game to play against their friends.”
The Panthers, minus players who move on to high school ball, will return to Babe Ruth play next summer.
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