St. Croix Central Panthers

Wins against Baldwin-Woodville and Ellsworth last week locked up third place in the final Middle Border Conference standings for the St. Croix Central baseball team.

The Panthers also found out last week they are the fifth seed in the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament. That means the Panthers will play at home this Thursday, May 25, hosting 12th seeded Somerset. The winner of that game will likely draw Northwestern, the top seed in the region.

Last week, the Panthers hosted Baldwin-Woodville, the team directly ahead of them in the MBC standings, on Tuesday. Riding a strong game at the plate and on the mound from Eli Ponath, the Panthers were able to score a 5-1 win. Baldwin-Woodville’s first batter of the game walked and later scored. That would be the only damage done against Ponath.

In the bottom of the first Ponath singled home Mason Sullivan to tie the score. Ponath delivered a two-run single in the second inning as the Panthers built a 4-1 lead. Mark Albright drew a bases-loaded walk to drive home Central’s fifth run in the third inning.

The turning point of the game came in the top of the second inning when B-W loaded the bases with one out. Ponath struck out two of the top B-W hitters to escape the jam without any runs.

Two days later, the Panthers played at Baldwin. Things didn’t go as well, with Central suffering an 8-1 loss. As in most of Central’s losses, the Panthers had one blow-up inning that swung the game out of their favor. That inning was the second, when the Panthers committed three errors, resulting in five unearned runs for the Blackhawks against pitcher Eli Babler.

On Saturday, the Panthers traveled to Hager City for a game against Ellsworth. The Panthers started strong and never relented, winning 12-2 in six innings.

Central used aggressive base running to turn the game in its favor, with the Panthers stealing eight bases, including four in the three-run first inning. The rally started with a Mark Albright walk and a stolen base. He scored on Kyle Trainor’s single. Trainor then stole second and third. Noah Nusbaum followed with a walk, immediately stealing second base. They both scored on Babler’s single.

Central put together one of its biggest innings in recent weeks by scoring six runs in the fourth. Babler started the inning with a single. Nusbaum delivered a two-run double as the high point of the rally. Central added one run in the fifth and two in the sixth to finish the game.

Ponath earned his second pitching win of the week, striking out nine while allowing Ellsworth five hits. The win clinched third place in the final conference standings.

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