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April 22, 2014

Panthers rally to beat Huskies

SAEGERTOWN — Through three innings Tuesday afternoon at home, it looked like it was going to be a very long day for the Saegertown baseball team.

The wind and the cold didn’t appear to bother Harbor Creek starting pitcher Issac Mattson as the senior struck out nine batters through the first three frames, including four strikeouts in the first inning alone.

Then stiffness in the shoulder set in, and the Huskies turned to their bullpen.

Saegertown welcomed the change with open arms.

The Panthers scored all nine of their runs in a three-inning span once Mattson left the game, and held on to pick up a 9-5 non-region win over Harbor Creek in a battle between two talented teams on the diamond.

“We were kind of surprised (Harbor Creek) took Mattson out as early as they did,” Saegertown manager Tim Crum said. “Things changed a bit and we were able to make contact with the ball, and that put a spark in our dugout. Mattson was shutting us down and we were having no success against him. It was nice to get some guys to start swinging the bat.”

The Huskies (8-2) held a 1-0 lead after Mattson laced an RBI double into the gap in the top of the third inning. The senior, while taken off the bump, remained in the game and moved to shortstop, turning the ball over to Patrick Brennan in the bottom of the fourth.

The Panthers (10-1) jumped all over the Huskies’ right- hander, loading the bases with two outs with Matt Thompson stepping into the box. Thompson appeared to be hit with a pitch on the elbow during the at-bat, but the home plate umpire ruled that the pitch hit the end of the bat, leaving the tying run 90 feet away.

An upset Panthers dugout rallied around their hitter, and Thompson made his at-bat count, drilling the next pitch into center field off the glove of a diving Ryan Kaschalk. By the time the play ended, all three runners crossed home, and Thompson was standing at third after clearing the bases, giving the Panthers a 3-1 advantage.

Trey Reagle followed with an RBI single to bring home Thompson, and just like that, Saegertown had a 4-1 lead.

“You think you are automatically going to first base, but you have to regroup and tell yourself you will get the next pitch,” Crum said of Thompson’s at-bat. “He barreled it up nicely. I’m sure he would of rather had the end result that he did and not the hit-by-pitch.”

The Panthers added to their lead in the fifth when Kyle Wise hit an RBI single to score Scott Sada, pushing the lead to 5-1.

Saegertown starter Mitchell Wood, who pitched well during his five innings of work, gave way to the bullpen in the top of the sixth, and just like the Panthers did to Harbor Creek in the fourth inning, the Huskies took advantage of the new arm on the hill.

Jeff Carr drew a leadoff walk, and the No. 9 hitter Sean Rutkowsky followed with a high fly ball to left field for a wind-aided two-run homer to cut the lead to 5-3.

Mitchell Fife was hit with the pitch in the ensuing at-bat, and the next five batters all singled to tie the game at 5 before Thompson got out of the jam.

With all the momentum lost, the Panthers battled back in the bottom of the frame when Drew Durasa singled to start the inning. Three batters late, Thompson singled with two outs before an RBI double from Reagle gave the Panthers the lead back at 6-5.

Lance Neuscheler walked in the next at-bat to load the bases, and it was deja vu for Harbor Creek as this time Sada did the damage, roping a bases-clearing triple to the right-center gap to give Saegertown plenty of insurance runs.

Kyle Wise came on in the seventh and ended the game with a double play, capping off an exciting showdown between two solid squads.

“It’s huge for us to have the bottom half of the lineup hit the way they did,” Crum said. “Trey hit the ball well, and Matt Thompson had a few hits too. That’s the key for us to be successful. We have to hit 1-through-9 in the lineup.

The bottom three Saegertown batters (Thompson, Reagle, Neuscheler) combined for five hits, five RBIs and five runs scored.

Wood started for the Panthers and pitched five innings, allowing one run on three hits while striking five and walking six.

The Saegertown win came after a disappointing 10-5 loss to Meadville last Friday. The Panthers wanted to bounce back in a big way, and against a strong team like Harbor Creek, mission accomplished.

“It’s big for us. We needed to bounce back,” Crum said. “We needed to get that confidence back in the dugout. Harbor Creek is a quality program, so it’s huge for us.”

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