Panther Babe Ruth team state bound
The Rugby Babe Ruth Panthers punched their ticket to state in Bottineau July 23, but not without a fight.
Faced with their first setback of the year at home in the first game of the Turtle Mountain League playoffs against the Rolette Comets, the Panthers battled their way back to the top in four more contentious games both at home in Northern Lights Field and in Bottineau’s Lumberyard.
Another setback came to the Panthers and the rest of the teams in the Turtle Mountain League when a downpour stopped the Comets’ game against Cando’s Bearcats, canceling the second day of the tournament.
Wet field conditions the next day brought the tournament to Rugby, where the Comets, who had led the Bearcats in the rained out game, weren’t able to repeat their performance the second time around.
Cando advanced to face the Panthers, who were out to redeem themselves.
The Bearcats struck the first blow in the battle when Carson Simon batted in Dane Hagler for a 0-1 lead in the first inning. Pitchers Jacob Ripplinger and Brody Schneibel held the Bearcats to their one run lead for the next four innings.
The Panthers threatened a few times in the game, stranding three runners in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Bearcats’ infield and pitcher Dane Hagler seemed destined to deny the Panthers a spot in the championship round.
With pressure mounting in the seventh inning, the Panthers put down the Bearcats in short order before a walk put Ripplinger on base to set up the Panthers’ scoring drive for the game. Batter Erik Foster doubled with a right field fly, moving Ripplinger to third. A Brody Schneibel walk loaded the bases, and Macen Heiseler waited Bearcat Carson Simon out on the pitcher’s mound as the pressure turned up a notch. Heisler walked to first base, and the first Panther run walked across home plate.
A short grounder by Panther Garrett Sullivan cost the Bearcats an error and another Panther run. Rugby notched a 2-1 win on their way to the top.
“It was definitely intense,” Panther Coach Dillon Marco said of the game against Cando.
“I just basically said to the team, ‘We’ve got to do it now, or we’re done.’ And they pulled it off for us,” he added.
Marco said of his strategy of changing pitchers, “I tried to keep Brody Schneibel under 45 (pitches) for us. We did, so he can (throw 95 pitches) for us tomorrow.
The Panthers next faced the Comets, prepared for Rolette to play spoiler again. Rugby’s aggressive play netted them two runs on line drives by Ripplinger and Foster and two RBIs by Sullivan in the first inning.
The Comets struck back in the third inning with a 2-0 Panther lead, with Nicholas Mears batting a run in.
A Sullivan sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Dylan Bartsch stretched the Panther lead to 4-1.
Panther batter Austin Dibble began the fourth inning with a base hit to deep left field, Ripplinger batted Dibble in, and Heisler batted Ripplinger in. With a 6-1 lead, the Panthers continued their climb to the top, finishing in six innings with an 11-1 win and another playoff day earned.
The Panthers traveled to the Lumberyard in Bottineau to face the Bottineau Diamond Slugs for the last two games of the tournament.
Rugby played both as visiting and home team at the Lumberyard against an aggressive group of Bottineau players coached by Mark LaCroix.
The Panthers struck first, leading by two runs at the top of the first inning thanks to a line drive RBI by Austin Schneibel. A Ripplinger RBI followed, then another by Foster to put the Panthers ahead 4-0.
A fifth inning RBI by Harner increased the lead to 5-0.
Pitching by Brody Schneibel, Foster and Harner kept the Diamond Slugs back until Bottineau changed to a bunt strategy that caught the Panther infield off guard. After Bottineau batter Carson Haere loaded the bases with a bunt, Marco called a conference on the pitcher’s mound.
A wild pitch would bring Bottineau batter Ryder Pollman home, followed by Bottineau batter and pitcher Eli Brisol.
Another Bottineau bunt attempt by Gabe Glasner went foul before a caught pop fly, strikeout and tag out at first ended the inning with a 5-2 Panther lead.
Bottineau changed pitchers in the seventh inning to Taylor Mogen after a Bartsch base hit and Austin Schneibel walk put two Panthers in scoring position.
Bartsch would increase the Panther lead to 6-2 after he crossed home plate on a wild Diamond Slug pitch. A Harner RBI and sacrifice fly by Ripplinger gave the Panthers two more runs.
An 8-2 deficit meant a do or die seventh inning for the Diamond Slugs. With Harner pitching, three Bottineau batters were up, then out.
Seven more innings stood between the Panthers and the Turtle Mountain League title.
Bottineau batted first this time, Brody Schneibel holding them back.
Bottineau’s pitcher Carson Haerer did the same with the Panthers.
With a 0-0 score in the third inning, Bottineau’s Brooks Siemens landed a base hit in center field before the Diamond Slugs returned to the bunt strategy they used in the day’s first game.
Two Bottineau bunts put runners on base before Bottineau’s Bristol batted in three runs on Panther errors.
Rugby’s infield stopped the loss in the fourth inning, with Eric Foster pitching and a temporary substitution with Sullivan replaced at third base by Travis Risovi.
The 3-0 Diamond Slug lead held for another inning, until Foster batted in two runners with a triple, narrowing Bottineau’s lead to 3-2.
A Bottineau pitching change to Pollman followed an Austin Schneibel walk, and a Dibble sacrifice bunt moved Rugby into tying position. A base hit by Harner followed, putting Austin Schneibel on third base before Ripplinger batted both in, putting the Panthers in the lead 4-3. Heisler followed to bat in Ripplinger and give the Panthers a 5-3 lead.
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