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Panthers host week of home games, hope to return for regionals

By Sue Sitter - | May 15, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Panthers batter Austin Schneibel looks over a pitch against the Velva Aggies at Rugby’s Northern Lights Field May 8.

The Rugby Panthers played on their home field for the last time in their regular season the first week of May, according to their coach, Travis Risovi.

However, the Panthers hope they’ll return before regional play wraps up.

Risovi said after a triangular May 8 at Northern Lights Field, “we don’t have any more home games unless we would get to host the regional tournament.”

The Panthers have more than a week of away games against regional opponents before they can think about returning to Rugby for a tournament.

“So, Tuesday, we’re in Rolette, then Thursday, we’re in Bottineau and Friday, we’re in Harvey,” Risovi said of May 9-16. “Then, the following week, we’re at North Star.”

The Panthers sit at the top of Region 5, tied with the North Star Bearcats for first place.

“We’re tied for first with North Star but they have the tie break edge because they beat us head to head, so hopefully, we can take care of business next week and it will come down to that North Star game, then we can get them this time,” Risovi said of the game against the Bearcats, scheduled for May 18 in Cando.

The Panthers had played in Belcourt just before their week of home games, where they shut out the Turtle Mountain Braves 14-0 in five regulation innings.

Fresh from that victory, the Panthers won a home game against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets 8-3 before they trounced the Northern Lights Comets 14-4, again in five innings due to the ten-point margin.

The Panthers faltered briefly against the Northern Lights in the first inning, resulting in a 2-1 Comets lead. Panthers pitcher Cy Luna and his teammates steadied themselves in the second inning and their scoring drive began in the second inning when pinch hitter Dylan Bartsch walked to first base. Catcher Erik Foster batted next, walking to first as well.

Gavin Schepp stepped up to the plate next for Rugby, hitting two foul balls. One of them bounced off his face, injuring his mouth and nose.

Dane Heidbreder filled in for Schepp for the rest of the game.

A wild pitch with Logan Harner at bat advanced Rugby’s runners to second and third base before Harner batted both in with a triple.

With a 3-2 Panthers lead, Macen Heisler batted Haner in with a double to center field, taking third base later on another wild pitch. Luna batted Heisler in with a single. Brady Schock batted next, bringing Luna home with a line drive. After another base hit by Jacob Ripplinger, Cole Schneibel het a home run, bringing in three. Two outs later, Foster hit a triple with a line drive to center field before Heidbreder hit a second home run for the Panthers. The second inning ended with an 11-2 Rugby lead.

The Comets and the Panthers held each other back in the third inning before Bartsch added to the Panthers’ home run tally with one of his own. Brady Schock batted in one run and the fourth inning ended with a 13-2 Panthers lead.

The Comets managed to put runners on base on two Panther fielding errors, resulting in a Northern Lights run before pitcher Nicholas Mears batted in another run. The fifth and final inning ended with a 14-4 Panthers win.

Two days later, the Panthers returned to their home diamond to host a triangular with the New Rockford-Sheyenne Black Sox and the Velva/Drake-Anamoose Aggies.

The Panthers notched a 6-4 victory against New Rockford Sheyenne, a team whose players had faced some of the Rugby Panthers in Babe Ruth baseball.

The Black Sox next faced the Aggies, who beat them 5-1.

The Panthers returned to the field to face the Aggies next.

Harner led off with a base hit on a pitch by the Aggie’s Gunnar Mogen before third base player Craig Cayden tagged him out after fielding a grounder by Luna. The out and two strikeouts ended the Panthers’ time at bat in the first inning, which saw the most Panther hits in the game.

Brady Schock pitched for the Panthers, holding back the Aggies in the first inning.

The Aggies scored three runs in the second inning, taking advantage of Panther errors and a pitching balk.

Tim Mueller would score the only run for the Panthers when he advanced to first after being hit with a wild pitch. One sacrifice fly and two more wild pitches brought Mueller across home plate.

Velva/Drake-Anamoose took advantage of more Panther errors when they batted in the third inning, first turning a pop fly by Enrique Gonzales into a triple, then bringing Gonzales home with a wild pitch. Trace Pederson batted next, hitting a double to a gap in center field. Jersey Selzler batted Pederson home, then crossed the plate himself one batter later on a wild pitch. The inning would end with a 5-1 Aggies lead.

Schock put Panthers on base with a single before an unfortunate bounce off a hit by Cole Schneibel hit Schock running to second base for an out. Two strikeouts would end their time at bat.

The Aggies scored their seventh run of the game on a sacrifice fly hit by Tace Pederson.

The Panthers scored another run when Harner advanced to first base on errors, ultimately crossing the plate on a sacrifice fly by Luna and more Aggie errors.

The game ended with a 7-2 Aggies win.

Risovi and the Panthers all described the triangular as “fun.” They enjoyed krispy rice bars in the dugout and wished their teammate, Luna, a happy birthday. Luna said he was headed to Rolette later that day for a high school prom.

“The first game, we started with a lot of energy. We were just excited to be out here and play baseball. I think the game in between hit us in a rough spot. It gave us too much down time to relax and we didn’t come out in the second game firing,” Luna said of the games.

“I think when you play a game back to back or you play a game and sit one out, everybody’s tired, especially for these guys,” Luna said of the visiting teams. “They’ve got a long way to go home. They kind of want to get up and go.”

However, Luna added, “It’s always a good day to play baseball and it’s a double bonus because it’s my birthday. Overall, I’m just happy to be out here and play baseball with my friends.”

Risovi said Schepp, who sat out the triangular in the dugout, would return to play May 13 against the Bottineau Braves in Bottineau.

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