The Panthers edged Wisconsin Lutheran, 7-6, at Henry Aaron Field on Wednesday, after losing the previous day at B1G foe Northwestern, 9-5. Starting pitching improved from Tuesday to Wednesday, as Milwaukee starter Alex McIntosh got tagged against the Wildcats, but Joe Pavlovich pitched much better against the Warriors.
Offense came early and often for the Wildcats on Tuesday.
The Panthers led off the scoring in the top of the first inning. Milwaukee’s leadoff man, center fielder Luke Meeteer, walked, advanced to second on a groundout by right fielder Derek Peake, then stole third. After left fielder Sam Koenig walked, Northwestern immediately switched pitchers, as Joe Schindler came in for starter Brandon Magallones. Catcher Daulton Varsho hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Meeteer.
The Wildcats responded immediately. After a leadoff single by shortstop Kyle Ruchim, first baseman Zach Jones hit a two-run shot to right-center. Then, catcher Scott Heelan doubled to right-center, and designated hitter Joe Hoscheit singled him in during the next at-bat. After third baseman Reid Hunter reached on a fielder’s choice, left fielder Zach Mitchell hit the ‘Cats second home run of the inning, another two-run dinger, this one down the left field line to give Northwestern a 5-1 lead after the first frame.
The Panthers cut into the deficit in the second inning off of a solo homer by first baseman Nick Unes. After their half of the inning, Milwaukee substituted reliever Adam Reuss for McIntosh.
After a leadoff walk, Reuss induced a double play as the Panthers held Northwestern scoreless for three consecutive innings.
Milwaukee was able to take advantage of the improved pitching. In the fourth inning, Panthers’ third baseman Tyler Hermann got things started by reaching on a throwing error by Wildcats second baseman Antonio Freschet. After that, Unes doubled him in, and then shortstop Ryan McShane hit another double to score Unes.
Milwaukee would tie the game in the fifth on another solo round tripper, this one by Koenig. However, this was the last run the Panthers would score.
The ‘Cats were nowhere near done, however. In the bottom of the fifth, Mitchell picked up his third RBI on a sacrifice fly. Then, in the seventh, Hoscheit hit a solo home run after Heelan advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error by Varsho in the same sequence. Northwestern would score one more run on an RBI single from Jones following a Ruchim double.
Wildcats’ reliever Grant Peikert shut the Milwaukee down 1-2-3 to preserve the four-run victory.
Coach Scott Doffek, while displeased with the loss, did commend his team’s comeback.
“We did a great job of getting back to even,” he said. “I thought in the middle of the game, we barreled some balls and did not get any results. They did a good job of pitching away from the wind. What balls we did hit hard, we hit hard to right and the wind would knock it down.”
Wednesday’s game was a lot more dramatic than it appeared it would be at the beginning.
After Pavlovich allowed one hit during the first inning, the Panthers got going offensively in the bottom of the frame.
Meeteer hit a single to right and then stole second. McShane then walked, and after designated hitter Mike Porcaro struck out, Meeteer and McShane pulled off a double steal to give Milwaukee two runners in scoring position. After Unes was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Hermann hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Meeteer. Then, right fielder Sam Hammer lived up to his last name by hitting a three-run shot that gave the Panthers a 4-0 lead after one.
Milwaukee planned to give Pavlovich only one inning, and they followed through by bringing in reliever Gunnar Eastman in the second. He gave up two hits but no runs in his only inning of work.
The Panthers kept the scoring up in the second.
Meeteer reached on a throwing error, and McShane hit a single that advance him to third. Porcaro then lined out and Unes hit a sac fly to score Meeteer in the subsequent at-bat. Hermann then doubled in McShane to extend the Milwaukee lead to six.
Panthers’ reliever Austin Schulfer came in for Eastman to start the third and had control issues to begin with. After surrendering two walks, he threw a wild pitch to score Wisconsin Lutheran shortstop Aaron Roeseler.
After a scoreless fourth from both teams, the Warriors drew a bit closer in the fifth. After Roeseler doubled down the line in left, right fielder Sam Mattheis hit a single to the opposite side to score him. The deficit was now four.
Milwaukee was able to respond in the bottom of the inning. Reserve outfielder Cole Heili reached on a throwing error in which he was able to advance to second. Then, he got to third on a passed ball, where he eventually scored from on a double by backup shortstop Eric Solberg. The offense would, like the previous game, end in the fifth for the Panthers.
Wisconsin Lutheran would add a run in the seventh on a passed ball. Roeseler scored the run on a passed ball after he singled to begin the inning. Mattheis then walked, and the two subsequently double stole. Afterwards, Varsho committed the passed ball that allowed the run.
Milwaukee would get a scoreless eighth from reliever Jonathan Nick, but a big scare came in the ninth.
The Panthers would bring in Zach Brenner, but he struggled mightily. After Warriors pinch hitter Joe Hanson reached on a bobble by Solberg, Brenner walked center fielder Connor Vredeveld and then threw a wild pitch that advanced Vredeveld and Hanson’s pinch runner Zach Szalacinski. After Roeseler walked and Mattheis whiffed, catcher Brett Youngbeck hit a single to drive in Vredeveld and Szalacinski. That’s when Milwaukee brought in Justin Jaquish to finish the game.
And that he did. Pinch hitter Curtis Engelbrecht grounded out to second base that scored Roeseler. However, a groundout by second baseman Brett Jakel ended the game and the Lutheran rally.
The Panthers set a team record with 16 pitcher strikeouts in the game.
Up next, Milwaukee hits the Windy City for a three game set with the UIC Flames. The Panthers dropped two of the last three against the Flames in their last series at the Hank. UWM is now 23-13, 9-8 in league play.