Panthers pound Warriors 17-7 in five to advance
Kingsley-Pierson faced Whiting less than a week ago and even saw pitcher Reid Linden in the contest.
Tuesday's 17-7, five-inning win in the Class 1A District 16 opener was a far cry from the 5-4 win the Panthers eked out last Thursday in Kingsley and K-P coach Kevin Hardie is pleased with the improvement.
"We struggled to hit the ball (last Thursday)," Hardie said. "This time we saw the same pitcher and we put the ball in play and hit it well. I'm hoping this will give us some momentum to keep moving further into districts."
The Panthers registered 15 hits in the win and will advance to play Highway 140 rival Woodbury Central, which collected a five-inning win of its own with an 11-1 decision against River Valley in the second half of Tuesday's doubleheader.
"We've played both (Woodbury Central and River Valley) twice and regardless of who we play, it's going to be a battle," Hardie said.
The Panthers saw their fair share of ups and downs in Tuesday's game against the Warriors.
After using RBI doubles from Travis Neumann and Colin Henrich to take a 3-0 lead in the first, the Panthers and starter Tyler Sudbeck surrendered five runs in the top of the second.
K-P responded with a nine-spot in the bottom of the frame to go ahead 12-5 and by the top of the fifth, it appeared the Panthers would shorten the game to just five innings as they held a 17-5 advantage.
But Ryan Mercer walked the first batter and hit the second and with one out, the bases were loaded. An RBI single was followed by an RBI walk and it appeared the Panthers would be forced to play at least the bottom of the fifth frame.
Justin Keck came in with one out and the bases loaded, induced an infield fly and struck out the final batter to preserve the win for Mercer.
"That was good to see," Hardie said. "He's kind of put in a tough spot there with the bases loaded and he did exactly what I wanted. He made (Whiting) put the ball in play and then he came through with a strikeout."
Mercer collects the win with 2 2/3 innings of relief. The junior allowed one earned run on one hit and struck out five.
"Ryan pitched well," Hardie said. "It looks like he got tired in the last inning, but he did his job. We struggled from the start, but the guys that came in for relief, they did it. It was a good win for us."
Sudbeck allowed five earned runs on two hits and struck out two in the first 1 2/3 innings.
Colin Henrich powered the K-P offense with a 3-for-3 showing that included five RBIs and two runs scored. All of the freshman's hits were doubles.
Sudbeck was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and four runs scored while Brandon Bainbridge went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Tyler Campbell was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Mercer went 2-for-4 and scored twice while Neumann had a ground rule double that plated one run in his 2-for-3 performance and Tate Rohde was 1-for-4. Todd Bottorff was 1-for-3 with a two-RBI double in the fourth and he scored twice.
Keck reached on a fielder's choice that scored a run in the bottom of the second and scored later in the inning.
The Panthers dropped a pair of Western Valley Conference games to Woodbury Central this season. On June 9 in Moville, Bainbridge surrendered the winning run as the Wildcats won 7-6. Mercer suffered the complete-game loss on June 30 in Kingsley when the Wildcats claimed a 12-10 win.
Cole Hancock leads the Wildcat offense with a .448 average and a team-high 21 RBIs. Woodbury Central, which is 9-10 on the season, is hitting .309 as a team.
Colin Christiansen is the team's winningest pitcher, with a 4-3 record. He has a 3.11 ERA and 61 strikeouts on the year.
K-P (12-15) is led by Neumann with a .438 average and a .516 on-base percentage.
Sudbeck leads the team in runs batted in with 26 and hits .388. Mercer is the team's winningest pitcher with a 4-1 record and a 4.83 ERA.
Thursday's district semifinal is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Moville.