Baseball: Panthers walk off with win over Prescott
HAGER CITY - With the winning run on second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, Ellsworth head baseball coach Steve Block normally would have given his No. 6 hitter Logan Armstrong the sign to bunt.
Instead, Block trusted the junior's bat against the defending Division 3 champions.
"The conventional wisdom is to bunt the runner over with nobody out, but (Armstrong's) a very good hitter," Block said. "Sometimes with a runner at second, I'd rather take my chances with a good hitter. It was a good chance for him to grow a little confidence and score a winning run."
And with free reign at the plate, Armstrong delivered with a line drive to left field to score James Georgakas and put the Panthers over Prescott 2-1 for a Middle Border Conference win Thursday in a battle of two top-10 Division 2 teams.
"The first pitch was a fastball inside; since (relief pitcher Brady Schommer) is a lefty, it tails," Armstrong said. "Second one was fastball right up the middle, right on top of the bat."
In the top half of the seventh, Armstrong came in as a relief pitcher and preserved the 1-1 tie after accounting for all three outs (two strikeouts and a fly out), sitting the ninth-ranked Cardinals down in order.
"With their 7-8-9 batters coming up, I felt pretty confident because they hadn't done much all day," Armstrong said. "I just had to get my curveball because that's my pitch."
Leading off in the bottom of the seventh, Georgakas laced the ball into deep right-center to get into scoring position.
"Coach just said, 'Wait for your pitch and swing at it,' and I did," said Georgakas, who also drove in the game-tying run in the bottom of the fourth. "It was right down the middle."
Georgakas started on the mound for fourth-ranked Ellsworth, striking out 10 despite admitting that he didn't have his best stuff on Thursday. He allowed just two hits but gave up six walks.
"I didn't have any control over any of my pitches today," Georgakas said. "That's just something to work on in practice. I just got to work on throwing more strikes and we'll be good to go."
After leaving two runners stranded in the first, Prescott finally was able to crack the scoreboard when on a 3-2 count with one out, Marty Harris roped a liner into left-center, bringing home Clay Seifert for the 1-0 lead. But the Cardinals were unable to keep the momentum going as Georgakas struck out the next two batters.
Meanwhile, Prescott's starting pitcher, Matt Holman, kept Ellsworth's batters off-balance through the first two innings. Chandler Flynn led the bottom of the third off with a single, and got as far as third base before Holman retired the side.
"The reason I knew they'd be in the ball game, because they are nothing like they were last year, was because their pitcher was going to keep them in the ball game," Block said.
With one out in the fourth, Dennis Schutz got on with a single, and moved to second with a stolen base. Then, with two outs, Georgakas brought Schutz home with a single of his own to tie the game at 1-1.
"(Holman) pitches very well against us," Block said, "and we were hoping we could get him later in the game with a chance to win, and that's the way it worked."
Then in the seventh, Armstrong's base knock completed the early-season comeback.
"We haven't beaten them in a while; they've been pretty good," Armstrong said, "so it's good to beat them finally."
The Panthers (4-0) are back on the field today for a MBC matchup with New Richmond.