A 12-10 Rugby Babe Ruth Panthers win in the first game of the Turtle Mountain League District Baseball Tournament at home July 11 looked almost like a mirror image of their matchup against Cando’s Bearcats late in the regular season.
The Panthers had punched their ticket to the top seed in the playoffs with a 10-2 record after falling to Turtle Mountain 13-5 in a double header July 5, followed by a 10-9 loss to Cando July 6.
In the July 6 game against the Bearcats, the Panthers came back from a 9-1 deficit in the sixth inning to fall short by just one run at the game’s end.
When the teams met again, the pattern seemed to repeat at first – until the Panthers came roaring back for the two-run win.
The game saw three pitching changes for each team to keep them within limits that would allow them to pitch in multiple tournament games.
It also saw a Bearcats team battle-tested by a 13-9 win against Rolla just an hour before.
Cando’s Hunter Hagler flipped a 3-1 Panthers lead to a 5-3 Bearcats lead with a three-RBI home run in the fourth inning.
Hagler’s smash over the left field fence followed an RBI single by Cando pitcher Brody Svir.
After the Panthers failed to get traction at bat, the Bearcats broke open a hitting streak. Batters Sean Freund and Kaden Nelsen put themselves in scoring position with base hits. A wild pitch brought Freund home. A Brayton Thomas grounder brought in another, then a sacrifice RBI by Svir put another on the board. Hagler batted in a ninth Bearcats run before the Panthers went to bat.
Rugby’s revenge began after walks loaded the bases in the fifth inning. Another brought the Panthers’ fourth run across the plate.
Next, first base player John Lashman batted two runs in with a hit deep to center field.
A sacrifice RBI by catcher Jove Risovi followed. With a 9-7 run deficit, the Panthers closed in.
Cando batter Kole Thompson found a chance for another RBI after two outs. But the Panthers’ defense sprang back into action. Relief pitcher Alex Berndt struck the final Cando batter out, and the Panthers batters went to work.
Tatum Risovi landed on first base on a walk, then took second on a Bearcats error. Jayden Wald moved him to third with a base hit. Wald soon stole second base, rattling nerves and bringing a Bearcats balk on the next pitch. Risovi went home.
With bases loaded, Clifton Brossart came to the plate. A wild pitch hit him on the shoulder. The bases stayed loaded as Rugby’s typing run crossed the plate.
Gavin Bartsch batted two runs in next, giving Rugby a two-run lead they would hold until the game’s end.
When asked if pitching or hitting played a bigger role in the game, Coach Travis Risovi said, “I think today it was our bats.
“The problem with our pitching today was we walked too many people and when we did, it was in front of their best hitters,” he said. “And their best hitters really hit the ball well today. Hunter Hagler and Brody Svir hit the ball really well, so it was just bad timing with our walks.
“Fortunately for us, though, we went up and even though we were behind 9-6, we put together some really good at bats,” I have added. “We didn’t swing at bad pitches, and when we got a good pitch, we swung and made good contact. That got us to where we were.”
The Panthers would travel to Rolla the next day for the second playoff game against Belcourt. Results from that game will appear in the July 23 Tribune.