The Milwaukee Panthers defeated the Cougars of Chicago State, 15-11 in a high-scoring affair at Aaron Field on Wednesday afternoon. Milwaukee was trailing 10-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, but then stormed back, scoring two runs in the bottom of that inning and exploding for 11 in the seventh.
Milwaukee started the scoring in the first inning on a balk by Cougars starter Ean McNeal. However, in the next three innings, the Cougars roared offensively.
Panthers starter Jake Tuttle walked the first batter, Chicago State first baseman Matt Schmidt, who then advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a hit and a walk following that sequence, shortstop Quintin Alexander singled in Schmidt. Then, two batters later and with the bases loaded, second baseman Mattingly Romanin doubled to left center, scoring all three runners. After another walk, Tuttle was pulled for Justin Jaquish, but control problems continued.
Jaquish walked his first batter, then threw a wild pitch, allowing an additional run to score. However, he struck out Schmidt to stop the initial bleeding. The Cougars led 5-1 after the second inning.
After Milwaukee went down 1-2-3 in their half of the second, Chicago State got right to work again. Center fielder Jared Patterson doubled in two runs after a hit, walk and a Panthers error. The next batter, Romanin, singled in two more runs, and Jaquish was taken out and replaced by Mike Schneider. Schneider proceeded to pick off Romanin and induce a flyout to end the inning.
After the Cougars added one more run in the top of the fourth, the Panthers went to work.
In the bottom of that inning, designated hitter Mike Porcaro was hit by a pitch, then third baseman Tyler Hermann doubled him in. After first baseman Nick Unes flied out (sending Hermann to third), shortstop Eric Solberg hit another double, scoring Hermann. Milwaukee closed the gap to 10-3.
A scoreless fifth and sixth innings from both teams followed that up, along with a goose egg seventh for the Cougars.
Then, the offensive eruption commenced.
Right fielder Derek Peake singled to start the inning, then center fielder Luke Meeteer hit into a fielder’s choice. After second baseman Ryan McShane was hit by a pitch, the Cougars yanked McNeal.
The home team cashed in the runners off of reliever Nick Kostalek, who had control troubles with two walks, one of them scoring a run. The pitches he did get over the plate were hammered by Panthers, as freshman Daulton Varsho singled in a run and Hermann doubled in two more after the scoring walk drawn by Porcaro. Chicago State reliever Zach Thomas came in for Kostalek then, but had no more success than his predecessor.
Thomas gave up two walks, one of them scoring a run. After Peake hit a sacrifice fly to score Hermann, Meeteer doubled in two more runs. After that, the Cougars brought in Dylan Sterrett to pitch.
The Panthers would tack on three more runs. McShane walked and left fielder Sam Koenig singled to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Meeteer, and then Varsho doubled in McShane and Koenig. Porcaro struck out looking to end the onslaught.
Each team scored a run in the eighth. Chicago State DH Jordan Stroschein doubled in a run, and Unes responded with a solo home run for the Panthers.
Senior Cody Peterson finished the dramatic win for the Panthers, and head coach Scott Doffek spoke after the win.
“Baseball is crazy… it really, really is,” he said. “We didn’t do much of anything well in the first three innings, we certainly didn’t pitch well and our at bats were not very good. I give them a lot of credit. Being down 10-1 takes some serious resiliency to fight back and find a way.”
Tuesday saw the second consecutive doubleheader for Milwaukee, who has now played five games in four days. The twinbill was in Macomb, IL, against the Leathernecks of Western Illinois. The Panthers split the two games.
The second game saw the Panthers win 7-1 behind a masterful performance from starter Alex McIntosh. He went six scoreless before WIU scored a run on first baseman Mark Garton’s RBI single in the seventh and final inning.
McShane led the offense, which did most of its damage right away, scoring five runs before the Leathernecks came to bat. He had two timely hits that plated four of the seven runs. Varsho chipped in with two more RBIs as the Panthers also won the hit battle by a wide margin, 11-3.
In addition, the Leathernecks fielding left a lot to be desired, as they committed four errors.
“In game two, McIntosh did a great job of pitching ahead in the count with a steady mix,” Doffek said. “We put up five in the first inning and he kept getting us in the dugout with a zero. Our hitters had a better approach and barreled up balls most of the game.”
Game 1 was not as fortuitous for Milwaukee.
Another freshman Panther starter, Austin Schulfer, got rocked in the early going. Western Illinois scored three runs in the first two innings. During this time period, the bats offered no support, going hitless in the first three frames. Fortunes changed in the fifth inning
The Panthers scored four runs on two hits thanks to some ugly fielding by the Leathernecks, who committed three errors in the inning. The rally was spearheaded by Meeteer, who hit a two-RBI double. Milwaukee ended the top of the fifth with a 4-3 lead.
However, WIU responded immediately. They scored three more runs on four hits in the bottom of the fifth, and cruised through two three-up, three-down Panther innings for the win.
Varsho, swinging a hot bat as of late, was again an ignitor for the offense, collecting four hits and five runs batted in on nine at-bats in the three games.
The Panthers, now 18-12, face defending Horizon League tournament champion Youngstown State in a weekend three game series at the Hank.