Panthers add to undefeated record with another New Rockford rout
Ahead of playoff week, the Rugby Babe Ruth Panthers headed into the last week of their undefeated season with 12-1 home win last Tuesday, July 14, at its home diamond in Northern Lights Field.
The Panthers faced the New Rockford-Sheyenne Black Sox for a second time this season after shutting them out 19-0 in New Rockford’s Legion Park last month.
The Black Sox came to Rugby determined not to let that happen again.
Catcher Trevor Waldo began the Black Sox offensive with a base hit on a short grounder. Shortstop Hunter Jacobson batted next, sending one high over left field, but Panther Austin Dibble reached up and grabbed the ball. Waldo advanced to second, then third on steals, before being batted in by Kaden Hilbert.
The Panthers began the bottom of the first inning with a 0-1 deficit, but no one seemed worried. Just a few minutes into their time at bat, Rugby showed why there was no reason for concern.
Logan Harner started the Panther offensive with a base hit, then advanced to second on a wild pitch by New Rockford’s Haden Meier. Panther pitcher Jacob Ripplinger doubled and batted Harner in. Erik Foster next batted Ripplinger in with a grounder, and the Panthers led 2-1. Foster took advantage of two pitching errors, and when Waldo bobbled another errant pitch, Foster crossed home plate.
Panther center fielder Macen Heisler walked, later stealing second base. A few missed pitches later, Heisler stole home. The Panthers ended the inning with a 4-1 lead.
The Black Sox found themselves unable to get past the Panther defenses in the second inning. D.J. Mudgett’s pop fly landed straight into first base player Austin Schneibel’s glove. Taylor Jacobson hit another infield fly, this time, right to Ripplinger. Black Sox third base player Brody Weisenberger hit a short grounder for an easy out at first.
The Panthers stepped to the plate and built on their lead.
Dibble led the way with a double to left field, advancing to third when Harner’s short hopper to first base resulted in a Panther out.
Ripplinger hit another short hopper, but the Black Sox infield threw the ball home, and Dibble was out.
More Black Sox pitches went astray, and Ripplinger took advantage, first getting to third on errors, then stealing home on another wild throw.
The inning ended with a 5-1 Panther lead.
The top of the third inning ended quickly for the Black Sox. Ripplinger struck out batter Luke Yiri, and batters Connor Knatterud and Waldo were tagged out at first.
Meier seemed to tire on the pitcher’s mound at the bottom of the third. More pitches missed the strike zone, and Black Sox Coach Braxton Hewitt used a timeout for a short conference.
Heisler capitalized on walk and more errors to reach third base before Dylan Bartsch batted him in. Austin Schneibel walked to first next, and an Austin Dibble base hit resulted in a force out for Bartsch. The bases loaded up when a pitch hit Harner. Ripplinger batted in two next, with a fly to deep right field that cost the Black Sox an error.
With an 8-1 Panther lead, Harner stole home. Another wild pitch brought Ripplinger home, and Foster walked to first base.
Foster took two more bases on errors before Brody Schneibel batted him home. The Panthers went into the fourth inning with an 11-1 lead.
After a three up, three down top of the fourth inning, Connor Knatterud took the pitcher’s mound for the Black Sox.
A base hit by Dane Heidbreder led off the Panthers’ time at bat and pinch hitter Cooper Bonebrake sent a grounder past the pitcher’s mound, getting Heidbreder to third base. Pinch hitter Garrett Sullivan followed and batted in Heidbreder for the 12-1 Panther win.
Hope for a Black Sox comeback faded as Ripplinger and the Panther infield put the first New Rockford batters down quickly.
Panther Coach Dillon Marco said the team had their sights set on the playoffs Monday.
First, they had one more regular season game to play.
“We’ve got one more game versus Bottineau at home,” Marco said. “We should be the number one seed,” he said of the playoffs, set for Rugby and Bottineau early this week.
“We’re hosting the four and five seed,” Marco said, “and then, we’ll play the winner of the game they play.”
Marco said of the playoff picture, “It’s in our favor, for sure. We’re looking forward to it.”
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