Baseball: Panthers double up Tigers
LAKE CITY – Dennis Schutz put the exclamation point on the victory, but it was a six-run first inning, sparked by Nick Taranto’s RBI single, that gave Ellsworth an insurmountable lead Tuesday afternoon.
Dan Giese led off the game with a walk as Lake City’s Trevor Gnotke struggled with the strike zone. After Giese took second base on a ball in the dirt, Taranto ripped a single to score the first run of the game in an 8-4 win for the Panthers.
“We try to come out with a good mental approach at the plate. Hit the ball hard, that’s all you want to do,” Taranto said. “I got a good pitch to hit, and it worked out that we got a run. Then it just kept multiplying. When somebody starts it, we just keep going. It’s a good thing.”
Ellsworth followed with five more hits, including an RBI double from Luke Sterny that pushed the lead to 6-0. After opening the season with an 11-1 victory over St. Croix Central, the second-ranked Panthers have now scored 19 runs in 12 innings. But defensively, the game was not nearly as smooth, a product of too much time inside, according to head coach Steve Block
“We really need to get a practice in,” Block said. “There were just some things that we broke down on today … But that’s high school baseball in a spring like this. You just try and minimize (it). Hopefully you’ve got enough experience that guys make plays.”
The Tigers, who switched pitchers every two innings, got their bats going in the bottom of the first with three hits and a run. Elliot Cox singled with one out, then scored three batters later when Gnotke also singled.
But that would be the extent of the damage that Lake City was able to do against Panthers starter Eric McGregor. The lefty kept the Tigers off balance all game, allowing two earned runs, four hits, striking out six and walking just one batter in six innings of work.
Lake City did mount a rally in the fourth inning, scoring twice off of two Ellsworth errors. Those runs came after the Panthers pushed across solo runs in the top second and fourth innings. And it was Schutz that scored in the fourth on a rocket-shot to left-center that left the bat with little doubt the park was incapable of keeping the ball inside the fence.
Logan Armstrong pitched a scoreless seventh inning for Ellsworth while Michael Noll pitched two innings of relief for Lake City, giving up Schutz’s home run. Jarrett Thomas pitched the fifth and sixth for the Tigers, as well as the final out of the game after Cox issued three straight walks in the seventh.
“We wanted to see some different pitchers, and we had a chance to see four different guys,” said Lake City head coach Perry Iberg. “I think all of them did good things at times. Ellsworth is a quality team, Coach Block is one or the more well-respected coaches in the state of Wisconsin, and I’m sure they’re ranked. They’re good.”
The Panthers (2-0) will jump into Middle Border Conference play Thursday when New Richmond visits. The Tigers (1-1) will host River Falls, Sibley East and Wabasha-Kellogg for an invitational Saturday, then visit Goodhue Monday.