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Panthers deny Bearcats shutout at Northern Lights Field

By Sue Sitter - | Jul 10, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby pitcher Nash Wollenzien throws a strike against the Cando Bearcats at Rugby’s Northern Lights Field June 28.

A young Panther squad denied the seasoned Cando Bearcats a shutout on Rugby’s Northern Lights Field June 29 when Tucker Volk slid home to score the lone run in their 11-1 loss.

The Babe Ruth game was the Panthers’ third loss in a row after they fell to Harvey’s Eagles in Harvey June 28 and New Rockford June 25 on a muddy home field.

The June 29 game saw the Panthers hold their own against the region-leading Bearcats for two innings. Cando scored one run in the first inning before Rugby pitcher Ryland Hildebrand ended their time at bat, then limited the damage to another run after a sacrifice pop fly by Zach Jorde brought home runner Chance Bisbee.

The Panthers faltered in the third inning. Costly throwing and fielding errors by Rugby brought in nine more Bearcats runs. The Panthers failed to capitalize on a double by Tatum Risovi, leaving him stranded at the end of the inning.

Nash Wollenzien went to the mound to pitch in the fourth inning. After one out, a double by Cando’s Hunter Hagler led off the Bearcats’ offensive, followed by walks to load the bases. A strikeout by Wollenzien and a force out at third base contained the threat, and the Panthers kept the Bearcats at 11 runs.

Unfortunately, the Bearcats held the Panthers back, too, and the fourth inning ended with no runs from either side.

The fifth inning signaled Rugby’s last hope to play a full game. Under Babe Ruth rules, leads of 10 or more points automatically end games at five innings.

The Panthers fielders held the Bearcats back again with Wollenzien striking out one batter and Risovi catching two fly balls. Volk took first base after four balls pitched by Cando’s Parker Simon. A pop fly by Jon Lashman put him on base thanks to a Cando error. A walk by Risovi followed to load the bases. Volk took advantage of a wild Cando pitch to slide home, giving the Panthers hope for two more innings.

But, luck turned against the Panthers once more. Two strikeouts and a caught pop fly ended the game.

After the game, coach Travis Risovi said, “In the first two innings, I think we played okay. We had one bad inning. We didn’t throw strikes and defense didn’t make plays but that’s part of being a young team.”

“We learned from it and talked about the mistakes we made and what we need to do to do better, Risovi added. “Everybody’s trying really hard and that’s all I can ask.”

Two more regular season games lay ahead on Rugby’s schedule before the start of tournaments in mid-July.

“We have Rolla and Bottineau,” Risovi said.

“We beat Rolla the first time we played them 5-4,” Risovi added.

The Bottineau Braves, another team favored to win regionals, would present a tougher challenge, Risovi acknowledged. However, Risovi said he knew in baseball, anything could happen.

Were the Panthers hoping for an upset against Bottineau?

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s always the plan.”

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