Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Panthers advance to sectional

The St. Croix Central Panther baseball team beat Clayton/Turtle Lake and Grantsburg in two one-run games last week to advance to the sectional semi-finals.

The Panthers topped Clayton 7-6 on Tuesday at home and then traveled to Grantsburg on Wednesday and held on for a 4-3 win over the Pirates.

The two wins advance the Panthers to the sectional semi-final on Tuesday at 11 a.m. against Osseo-Fairchild. The winner will face the winner between McDonell Central and Park Falls in the 5:00 sectional championship game. The games will all be held at Marshfield.

"Osseo-Fairchild comes from a pretty tough conference," said Coach Mike Fern. "I'm sure they will be a very good opponent."

The Panthers didn't have an easy time reaching the sectional. On Tuesday the Clayton/Turtle Lake team jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Nick Nygaard cut the lead to 4-1 with a solo home run to start the second inning and Central tied the score in the third inning when Jeff Fern, Mark Shaver and Noah Bollom all walked and scored.

"A lot of hits found holes and we got behind early," Fern said about Turtle Lake's offense. "But they made some mistakes and helped us out."

On Wednesday the Panthers struck first when Luke Brown singled in the second inning. Brown stole second and the ball bounced through to the outfield allowing Brown to score.

The Pirates tied the score in the bottom of the third, but the Panthers came back to score three runs in the fourth for a 4-1 lead.

Jared Fern led off the inning with a single, followed by a base hit by Hartung. Erickson walked with one out to load the bases. A base hit by Michael Tilton drove in two runs, followed by a single by Jeff Fern for the third run of the inning.

The Pirates scored twice in the bottom of the fourth to pull within a run at 4-3. But Nygaard came in in relief of Erickson to get out of the inning and Shaver pitched the final three inning to preserve the win.

"Andrew did what we needed him to do," Fern said. "We got through the fourth with Nick and Mark shut them down.

"It was a tight ball game all the way. We left 11 runners on base and we're lucky that didn't come back to haunt us."

Fern noted the Panthers made some good defensive plays. "They (Grantsburg) were the number one seed and have always been a thorn in our side-in all the sports. The win takes a lot of pressure off."

The winner of the sectional on Tuesday advances to the WIAA state tournament which will be held in Appleton at Fox Cities Stadium on June 11-12.