MILROY - Southwestern United entered the contest against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton with just one win on the season. Even though it was against state-ranked Adrian Area, the Wildcats maintained an underdog mentality that helped them get the 5-2 win over the Panthers Wednesday night.
"We're going to use the underdog mentality the entire playoffs, just like we have been the entire season," SWU coach Ben Scheevel said. "We're having fun with it."
The Wildcats needed just two RBI to get the victory as they took advantage of four Panther errors on the night. Austin Hietbrink and Marcelo Esqueda drove in two of the Wildcats five runs as they tallied eight hits as a team.
Submitted photo from Greg Devereaux Photography
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s Gavin Van Moer attempts to catch the ball after Panthers catcher Brady Lanoe threw it to first base on Wednesday in Milroy.
Scheevel was proud of the way his team came out and took control early on.
"It started with our pitching," Scheevel said. "Aaron Fest did a great job on the mound and his younger brother, Isaac Fest, came in and shut the door. I thought we had great energy today. We came in focused and ready to play and we hit the ball well today."
Starting pitching was definitely a key stat in the game as Aaron Fest threw six innings and finished with 75 total pitches where as TMB pitcher Taylor Carlson threw 135 pitches in his seven innings of work.
Panthers coach Landon Erickson knew that was way above his average, but wanted to rely on his best arm.
"That's a lot more than normal," Erickson said. "He has three complete games this year and in two of them, he threw under 80 pitches. He didn't hit his spots very well today, but when it's an elimination game, you want to go with him. He had good velcoity and was feeling good there at the end. We just needed more consistency in the strikezone."
Aaron Fest struck out two and walked none before Isaac Fest struck out the side in the bottom of the 7th to help get the win. Carlson struck out 11 batters while walking four and allowed four walks.
Offensively, the Panthers managed five hits and neither of their runs came on RBI.
Frustrating was probably the best word to describe the Panthers experience at the plate, not just this game, but the last half of the season. Baseballs tended to have a magnetic attraction to opponent's gloves.
"We've done that a lot this year," senior first basemen Gavin Van Moer said. "We just haven't found the gaps."
With the loss, it meant the end of high school baseball for seniors Justin LeClaire, VanMoer and Jordan Towne.
Erickson had plenty of good things to say about his three seniors.
"Gavin has saved a lot of runs over a first base with his glove," Erickson said. "He's just a great defensive first basemen and has an unbelievable eye at the plate. Jordan Towne turned into our most consistent hitter down the stretch. He's a team guy that will do anything you ask of him and works his butt off. If you could bring a bunch of kids from town out to watch Justin LeClaire play outfield, they'd be learning from one of the guys that does everything right out there."
TMB finished the regular season 7-8 and had a three-game winning streak before the loss to SWU.
SWU 5, TMB 2
Hitting: SWU ( Haberman 2-fof-4, RBI; Hietbrink 1-for-4, RBI; Schmid 2-for-2, two runs; A. Esqueda 2-for-4, two runs; Getzel 0-for-3, run; Dronen 1-for-4, I. Fest 1-for-4) TMB ( Carlson 2-for-3, Towne 1-for-3, run; Lanoue 1-for-3; Johnson 0-for-3, run).
Pitching (IP-H-R-ER-BB-K): SWU (A. Fest (W) 6-5-2-0-0-2; I. Fest 1-0-0-0-0-3) TMB (Carlson 7-8-5-2-4-11).