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Panthers battle to keep second place in region

By Sue Sitter - | May 22, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Relief pitcher Jacob Ripplinger throws one across the plate against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets May 14 in Harvey.

Whether the venue made the difference or other factors were to blame in a second season game for the Rugby Panthers against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets, Panthers Coach Travis Risovi couldn’t be sure.

But when Rugby High School squared off against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets on the diamond for a second time this season, it seemed like they were playing against an entirely different team.

The Panthers traveled to Harvey to take on the Hornets at Veterans Memorial Park May 14, just over a week after meeting them at Northern Lights Field in Rugby.

The Panthers had taken command of the game in Rugby, scoring four runs in the first two innings in an 8-3 win against Hornets pitcher Landon Monge.

This time, the Panthers batted against pitcher Tyson Tipton in a whole new ball game.

“It’s baseball,” Risovi said after the 12-2 Panthers loss to the Hornets. “Some days they hit with the pitcher and some days the pitcher wins the battle.”

“Today, they got us,” Risovi added.

Tipton put the Panthers starting lineup down easily at the top of the first inning, setting the tone for the game.

Panthers pitcher Logan Harner and Rugby’s infield struggled at the bottom of the first, giving up one run after loading the bases.

The Panthers managed a couple of grounders when their time came at bat, but no base hits materialized. Owen McKinven stepped up to the plate for the Hornets, hitting a fly ball to deep center field for a double. A grounder by Nathan Friedt came later, bringing McKinven home and resulting in a double on Panther errors.

More Panther errors followed and the Hornets’ lead grew to 3-0 before a balk by Harner brought another runner in.

The Hornets would score six more runs before the second inning ended.

With the Panthers trailing 10-0, Jacob Ripplinger stepped in to pitch, halting the Hornets’ hitting streak for three more innings.

After three more Panther at-bats slipped away, Tipton faltered, bouncing a wild pitch off Panthers pinch-hitter Dane Heidbreder. Harner batted next, bringing in Heidbreder with a base hit. Brady Schock would walk to first next for the Panthers.

The Hornets hoped to end the game at five innings due to the 10 run margin over Rugby, so they held a brief conference on the pitcher’s mound.

Cy Luna hit one past the Hornets’ infield, loading the bases before Cole Schneibel batted in another run with a sacrifice fly.

The Hornets stayed determined to end the game at five innings when they took their turn at bat with a 10-2 lead.

Line drives by Friedt and Monge put two runners on base. Ethan Nitz batted one in. Despite an impressive double play on a throw to first base by Cole Schneibel, Logan Jenner smacked one to deep center field, batting in the run that would end the game with a 12-2 Hornets win.

“The Tipton kid is a really nice pitcher and we knew that coming into this one,” Risovi said after the game. “We were pretty sure we were going to see him and we knew he threw hard.”

“I thought we battled well with him; we just dug ourselves such a big hole,” Risovi added.

“We had two good games on Saturday,” Risovi said of the prior week’s home games. “We won one and we lost one. Then, we had a tight one with Northern Lights and we battled back late.

When the Panthers traveled to Bottineau for an away game May 13, Risovi said Rugby “battled back late and took a lead and unfortunately, weren’t able to finish it out.”

The Panthers lost 4-5 to the Braves in the May 13 game.

Risovi said, “Honestly, defensively, we’re still playing okay but we’ve got to start hitting the ball a little better. We’re giving away too many at bats and we are making contact with the ball; it’s just not solid contact.”

We’re still trying to get kids ready for regionals,” Risovi said, noting the Panthers’ 8-6 overall and 4-3 Region 5 record put them in line for second seed in tournament play.

The Panthers would fall 5-0 to the number one North Star Bearcats in Cando May 17. Infielder Macen Heisler, who missed the game against Harvey for a hockey event, made an impressive diving catch and throw to third base resulting in a double play in that game’s third inning.

Regionals began May 20. For coverage, see the May 29 Tribune.

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