The Panthers were able to win three out of five games last week vs MSOE, Chicago State and Wright State (weekend series). They beat the former two opponents, but struggled with their league foe, losing the first two before winning the second half of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon.
Freshman starter Austin Schulfer had a quality start against MSOE, and the bats provided the support in the fourth and fifth innings.
Neither team scored until the fourth, when Milwaukee struck for two runs when the Raiders pulled starter Brandon McCumber for Michael Boehmer. Left fielder Sam Koenig led the inning off with a single up the middle, then second baseman Mitch Ghelfi doubled down the left field line to score him. Designated hitter Mike Porcaro subsequently singled to left, and then catcher Daulton Varsho grounded out to score Ghelfi.
The Panthers would keep the offense going in the fifth. After two outs to begin the inning, Koenig walked. Ghelfi then singled to right and Koenig got to third on the hit. That was the first of four consecutive hits, as Porcaro, Varsho and first baseman Nick Unes all hit RBI singles to push the Milwaukee lead to 5-0.
MSOE would cut into the lead in the following frame. After right fielder Josh Peltier was hit by a pitch then advanced on a wild pitch, third baseman Jimmy Carrington hit an RBI single. The Raiders would get their second run of the inning two at-bats later on a double steal and the gap was down to three.
In the seventh, the Panthers would push the lead back up. Ghelfi got his third hit of the game to begin the inning to lead off, then advanced to second on a passed ball. After Porcaro struck out and Varsho flied out, Unes would get his second RBI on a single to left center field.
Each team scored in the eighth. After two hits in three at-bats, MSOE second baseman Ryan Miller hit into a fielder’s choice which scored shortstop Ryan Newman. Milwaukee would respond when Koenig singled to left, scoring center fielder Luke Meeteer.
After eight innings from Schulfer, reliever Jonathan Nick pitched the ninth and shut the Raiders down for the 7-3 victory.
The next day, the Panthers headed to Joliet, Ill. for a much more dramatic tilt with Chicago State.
Milwaukee starter Alex McIntosh would pitch three scoreless innings, but the bats provided no help during this period, and the Cougars would draw first blood.
Chicago State first baseman Matt Schmidt singled to lead off the inning. After a groundout and strikeout, right fielder Chris Hipchen would hit another single that advanced Schmidt to third. Hipchen would then get himself into scoring position on a steal. Left fielder Jordan Stroschein cashed both in with a double to center.
Both teams would then exchange two more scoreless frames before the seventh, when it was the Panthers turn on offense.
Unes led off with a double and then stole third following a flyout. Shortstop Eric Solberg subsequently singled to score Unes as part of a rally that saw Milwaukee get four hits in five at-bats. After right fielder Derek Peake lined out, Koenig and Ghelfi both collected RBI singles to help the road squad take a 3-2 lead.
The Cougars would tie the game in the eighth, largely thanks to some control issues from Panthers’ reliever Jake Tuttle.
Tuttle opened the inning with a walk to center fielder Evan Davis. Second baseman Mattingly Romanin then hit a sacrifice bunt to advance Davis. Catcher Cody Freund then singled, Davis getting to third on the play. Tuttle then threw a wild pitch that advanced both runners and knotted the score.
The top of the order would provide some clutch hitting in the ninth for Milwaukee. Meeteer and Peake opened the frame with a single and a double, respectively. After a Chicago State pitching change, Koenig would hit a lineout deep enough to score Meeteer.
That was all the Panthers would need, as closer Cody Peterson came in and nailed down the save for a 4-3 victory.
Milwaukee coach Scott Doffek was impressed with the effort from both teams.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way – it seems like every game is one run or very close to that,” he said. “I thought it was a well-played game on both sides. They played well and both teams pitched the ball really well. Early on I thought we barreled some balls and didn’t get rewarded. But we stuck with it and before you know it, we found a way to win at the end.”
Coming home did not prove to be friendly to the Panthers against Wright State, as the Raiders jumped on them early and often.
Milwaukee starter Brian Keller had a rough outing that began in the first. Wright State catcher Sean Murphy opened the game with a leadoff double and, two at-bats later, center fielder Mark Fowler hit a groundout that scored him.
The struggles continued in the next two innings.
In the second, Raiders’ right fielder Ryan Fucci reached on a throwing error that scored first baseman Gabe Snyder all the way from first. Snyder walked to begin the frame. Later in the inning, Murphy singled to score Fucci to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
The third inning would see the Raiders tack on another run as an error, steal and wild pitch allowed Fowler to advance to third. Designated hitter Matt Morrow would then hit a groundout that would score Fowler.
After a scoreless inning, Wright State would again strike as shortstop Mitch Roman singled and then Snyder doubled him in. Two scoreless innings would follow, then the Raiders took a 6-0 lead in the eighth when Roman hit a solo home run to left center.
The Panthers would finally score in the bottom of that inning when Solberg hit an RBI double following a triple from second baseman Ryan McShane.
Wright State would score one last run in the ninth, and Milwaukee went scoreless in the bottom of the inning for a 7-1 Raiders victory.
Doffek was critical of the sloppy play in the field and on the mound.
“We beat ourselves early in the game for sure,” he said. “Didn’t throw strikes, didn’t defend well behind him – and that’s a good team that you cannot fall behind. It’s tough to come back against a team like that, because they are not going to beat themselves.”
The Panthers’ bats were better in the second game of the series, but so were those of the Raiders.
This was the opening game of a Saturday afternoon twinbill, as Sunday’s game was canceled due to rain possibility (this turned out to be the right projection).
Again, Wright State jumped on a Milwaukee starter early, the victim this time being Joe Pavlovich. Murphy and Morrow singled to start the frame, and Fowler hit a sac fly that scored Murphy. After a Roman single, second baseman Michael Timm hit a two-RBI double. Snyder would reach on the subsequent at-bat on an error, this allowing Timm to score after he advanced to third on a passed ball.
The Panthers would answer in the bottom of the first as Meeteer led off with a home run. Peake then singled, and Ghelfi hit another single to score him following a groundout that advanced him to second.
In the second, Milwaukee would cut the lead to one. McShane opened the inning getting beaned, then Peake hit a single to advance him. A balk would advance both runners, and Koenig hit a sac fly to score McShane. The Raiders held a 4-3 advantage after the second.
They would double their lead in the third. Roman hit a one-out double then advanced to third on a groundout to first. Snyder would then reach on an error that also allowed Roman to score.
The Panthers would storm back to take the lead in the fourth. Koenig reached on an error following a groundout and Ghelfi then singled to advance him. Porcaro singled, then Varsho did the same, only this hit brought in Koenig and Ghelfi to tie the game. Porcaro got to third on that hit, and then third baseman Tyler Hermann hit a sac fly to left to give the home squad a one-run lead.
That would not last, however, as Wright State would tie the game in the fifth and explode in the final three frames.
Roman and Timm singled to begin the fifth, and Pavlovich hit Snyder to load the bases. After Fucci struck out, left fielder Andrew McCafferty hit a sac fly that scored Roman to tie the game again.
The Raiders blew the game open on a two-out seventh inning rally after a scoreless sixth.
Milwaukee reliever Justin Jaquish, who came in for Pavlovich in the sixth, walked Fucci then set down the next two hitters. However, after Fucci stole second and Murphy walked, Morrow doubled to right center to cash in both of them, and Fowler singled to score Morrow. Reliever Adam Reuss then came in for Jaquish, but the Wright State hitting streak extended to four on consecutive singles from Roman and Timm. Reuss then walked Snyder with the bases loaded to score Fowler. Fucci, in his second at-bat of the inning, finally ended the flurry on a flyout.
The Raiders would get four more runs in the eighth and ninth. Third baseman John Brodner and Murphy both singled and two passed balls eventually allowed Brodner to score in the second to last inning. In the final frame, Timm and Snyder singled, then the Panthers brought in reliever Zach Brenner, who subsequently gave up a three-run homer to Fucci. These were the final runs of a 14-6 Wright State victory.
The Raider bats were much quieter in the second game, and this was key for Milwaukee.
Once again, the visitors would open the game with a run. Three consecutive singles by Timm, Fowler and Roman eventually scored Timm for a one-run lead.
It took the Panthers until the fourth to answer when Porcaro and Varsho hit consecutive doubles to tie the game.
Both teams scored in the fifth. Milwaukee starter Justin Langley walked designated hitter Jason DeFevers, then committed an error allowing Fucci to reach. McCafferty then grounded out to advance the runners, and Brodner subsequently hit another groundout to score DeFevers. Peake would answer in the bottom of the inning with a solo shot.
McCafferty hit an RBI single in the seventh following a Snyder single and a strikeout and groundout, the latter of which advanced Snyder to second. Two innings later, Snyder hit a solo dinger of his own to give Wright State a 4-2 lead heading into the home half of the ninth.
The Panthers’ freshman catcher has played like an upperclassman this season, but his best moment came in this game.
Peake singled to open the frame, then Koenig and Ghelfi both flied out. Porcaro hit another single, then Varsho belted a three-run walkoff home run to right center to win the game for Milwaukee, 5-4.
Doffek spoke on the grind-it-out win, commending his team’s play but acknowledging missed opportunities. In addition, he briefly spoke about the second game’s hero.
“That was pretty exciting … that was exactly what this team needed,” he said. “We had not played well at all the first two games against a very good Wright State team. I thought that game, that we played really good baseball. Justin pitched really well, I thought we did a great job swinging the bats – but we just had a hard time getting a big two-out hit or getting a runner in from third a few times.”
“Daulton is a talented kid. He’s kind of learning on the fly and that was a huge home run.”
The Panthers enter their final week of the regular season with a 31-18 record, 13-13 in Horizon League play. They remain in Milwaukee for the last four games, with three at Henry Aaron Field and one at Miller Park. The first game is against Northern Illinois, and the last three are against Oakland, the second of that series being the Miller Park game.