Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Panthers eliminated in semi

Members of the St. Croix Central baseball team included, front row, left to right, bat boy Jared Tilton, Mark Shaver, Luke Brown, Caleb Peterson, Noah Bollom, Nick Nygaard, Tony Juen, Jared Fern and Michael Tilton. In the back row are manager Joe Thompson, Ben Brooks, Brian Poulin, Stefan Wood, Andrew Erickson, Mike Winkler, Brady Hartung, David Butler, Cody Olson, Jeff Fern and Brian Aldworth.

Coach Mike Fern (5) had a conference with his infield in last Wednesday's state semi-final game with Marathon. From left are Michael Tilton, Luke Brown (hidden), Mike Winkler, Fern, Brady Hartung, Mark Shaver and Nick Nygaard.

The St. Croix Central baseball team was stopped on their run for the state championship in WIAA Division 3 by Marathon in the semi-final game last Wednesday.

The Red Raiders scored three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to oust the Panthers 7-2. Marathon went on to beat Aquinas 3-2 to win the 2008 Division 3 state baseball championship.

"It was a great experience to the kids to play in the state tournament in a beautiful stadium," said Coach Mike Fern. "It was a great accomplishment and will be a life-long memory for them."

The Panthers had eight seniors in the starting line-up, Fern noted.

"It's disappointing to end with a loss, but unless you win it all that's the way it goes," Fern said. "When they look back, they'll remember they had a lot of fun."

The Panthers were held to four hits in the game, but still had opportunities.

"We left 13 on base. We just didn't have the key hits," Fern said.

"We didn't put the ball in play enough. We were not aggressive at the plate."

Fern said the 13 strike outs were one reason for leaving so many runners stranded. "I do give Marathon credit. They made some defensive plays that really hurt us," he said.

"We had our chances with runners at third or second with no outs or one out and didn't score," Fern continued. "If we could have gotten some runs early and put the pressure on them, it would have been a whole different game."

The Panthers had a chance in the first inning when Michael Tilton reached on an error and stole second. Tilton moved to third on an throwing error in a pick off attempt, but was stranded there.

In the second inning Nick Nygaard led off with a walk and Jared Fern followed with single. But the next three batters went down via the strike out.

Marathon scored the first run of the game in the top of the third inning. In the bottom of the inning Jeff Fern singled with one out and took second on a wild pitch. Noah Bollom walked with two outs and Fern went to third on a wild pitch. But again Marathon got out of the inning with a
strike out.

The fourth inning provided the Panthers with another opportunity when Jared Fern and Brady Hartung walked and Luke Brown was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. But two strike outs and a fielder's choice ended the inning with the Panthers getting a runner across the plate.

The Red Raiders scored three runs in the fifth inning on three hits and two errors by the Panthers. The Panthers again left two runners on base in the bottom of the inning.

Marathon collected four hits in the sixth inning enroute to scoring three runs before the Panthers came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning.

Brown and Andrew Erickson both walked to start the inning. Cody Olson came in to pinch run for Erickson. Both runners advanced on a passed ball. Tilton drove in the first run with a sacrifice. Bollom drove in the second run with a single to center.

"Mark (Shaver) pitched a good game-well enough to win," Fern said.

"We made a few mistakes, which cost us, but we were two evenly matched teams. On a different day, I think it could have been a totally different outcome."

Shaver pitched all seven innings, giving up six earned runs on eight hits and four walks. He struck out seven batters. Bollom accounted to two of the Panthers four hits in three at-bats.

"It's something the kids have been working toward for a long time," said Fern. "Making it to the state tournament is a good way to go out."