Panthers walk off winners at Du Quoin, 6-5

Bradley Kurtz slides into home plate to score the game-winning run for PCHS. (Doug Daniels Photo)

By Doug Daniels

1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com / duquoinsports.com

April 26, 2018

  (Du Quoin, Ill.) - Back on April 16, the Panthers and Indians fought into extra innings before Pinckneyville escaped the Ballpark at DHS with a 5-4 win in the tenth. Eight days later - back in Du Quoin thanks to wet field conditions at the Perry County Fairgrounds - the two teams locked horns again and appeared to be headed for an eighth inning once more.
  But the Panthers, playing as the home team on the scoreboard, scratched a run across in the bottom of the seventh to break a tie score after the Indians had just tied it in the top of the inning, completing the season sweep of the matchup with a 6-5 victory.
  "It seems like every game that we play like this, we're always trying to claw and fight back," said Panthers head coach Bill Segelhorst. "One thing we've started doing is trying to work around mistakes. We said it last time in this situation, we showed our toughness today."
  PCHS grabbed the first lead of the day with an RBI single by Bradley Kurtz in the bottom of the first inning before DHS took advantage of an error in the second to tie it, then went up 2-1 in the third thanks to another Pinckneyville error. 
  The Panthers then used the long ball in the bottom of the third to go up once more, getting solo shots from Tyler Rice and Austin Alspach. Kurtz followed with a double, then Kyle Kreger singled for an RBI before scoring on Isaac Hardin's double that gave Pinckneyville a 5-2 advantage.
  "(Starting pitcher Hank Stewart) had the ball up a little bit (in the third), he had some pitches that were elevated," said DHS head coach Kyle Geiger. "They had a good approach at the plate, took advantage of some balls up and hit them to the gap, hit a couple out. The wind helped a little bit, but he got up in the zone and we had to get him back down."
  Du Quoin rallied right back in the fourth, scoring twice despite not having a hit in the inning - or the entire game to that point. Owen Bradley did pick up an RBI in the inning, driving in Hank Stewart (walk) with a fielder's choice.
  Still down a run in the top of the seventh, the Indians got a pinch-hit double by Charley Mercier who then scored on - you guessed it - a Pinckneyville error, the fifth of the day. But Grant Jausel, on in relief of Hunter Clark and Kyle Kreger, settled in to strike out the side and keep the game knotted at 5-5.

  Somewhat ironically, it was a Du Quoin error in the bottom of the seventh that put the potential winning run on base in the form of Kurtz with two outs. Kurtz advanced on a passed ball, giving Jausel the opportunity to win it when he beat out a grounder to short, and Kurtz raced home for the win as the ball fell from the glove of Indian catcher Ashton Smith.
  "It was (a 2-2 count), so I knew he was going to give me a good one," Jausel said. "I just tried to put it in play and give us a chance to win it."
  In addition to supplying the game-winning RBI, Jausel also got the win for his relief efforts on the mound.
  "I knew I was going to have to be just as good as the last time we faced them," said Jausel. "I came at them with the same approach, give them more off-speed because they're a fastball hitting team."
Clark went four innings without allowing a hit for the Panthers, walking four and hitting two batters before Kreger pitched the next two innings, allowing one hit. 
  "We know what Hunter is capable of, we know he can really throw the ball well," Segelhorst said. "He battled for us, was a little bit hurt towards the end of his outing. Kyle Kreger extended the game to get the ball to Grant, and Grant just went out there and did his thing."

  The trio of PCHS pitchers combined to allow just two official hits to the Indians, one apiece form Mercier (1-1, R, 2B) and Smith (1-1, R, BB, HBP).
  "We can't win with (two) hits," Geiger said. "They hit the ball. They hit the ball the two games we played them, they sprayed it out all over the field. They got the hits when they needed to. We were kind of sitting back on our heels. We did a good job coming back, we stayed into it, but we didn't execute on a couple things. We didn't get a bunt down, we missed a couple signs, those little things can effect the game."
  The Panthers, meanwhile, finished with ten hits, those coming from Rice (2-4, R, RBI, HR), Alspach (1-4, R, RBI, HR), Kurtz (3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2B), Kreger (1-3, R, RBI), Jausel (1-1, RBI), Hardin (1-3, RBI, 2B) and Ethan Bowen (1-4, R).
  "We've been talking about our approach being to right field, but jump on those first pitch fastballs," Segelhorst said. "I feel like our guys are really starting to see the ball a lot better. I thought we hit a lot of balls on the nose, really hard, right at some people. Those are the type of stats that just don't show up in the book. If we continue that approach, eventually those are going to start finding some holes and we're going to put up some runs."
  Du Quoin dropped to 12-6, 5-4 while Pinckneyville improved to 7-9, 4-4.

Photos by Doug Daniels / PinckneyvilleSports.com / DuQuoinSports.com

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