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Panthers pounce on Cardinals

LUVERNE -- Tracy-Milroy-Balaton faced four Luverne pitchers in Friday's non-conference baseball game at Redbird Field, and the Panthers hit them all -- claiming a 12-2 victory in five innings.

"We had timely hits today, and the defense played well behind a young pitcher, who saw his first action of the season," T-M-B head coach Bill Tauer said following the game. "Alex (Jones) is not the kind of pitcher who's going to strike a lot of guys out. If you play good defense behind him, he'll keep you in the game."

Jones, a 'B' squad ace last season, was solid in his varsity debut, allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out two and walking two in the shortened contest. The junior hurler simply threw strikes and let his defense make the plays.

"The defense was really big tonight, especially with the wind making it tough in the outfield," Jones said. "The fastball was working the best for me today; it was too cold to be throwing a lot of breaking stuff."

The Panther offense gave Jones a 3-0 lead after half an inning, as the T-M-B bats warmed up in a hurry against Luverne starter Jeremy Hoff under the chilly conditions.

After a lead-off walk issued to Taylor Hagberg, David Schmidt slapped a single down the third base line to give T-M-B a pair of runners with Isaac Dolan stepping into the batters' box. Isaac Dolan promptly crushed a 1-1 pitch to deep right-center field for a 2-run double. Dolan later scored on a single to right off the bat of Brian Schlager, and the Panthers (3-1) had a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first.

Jones also had his difficulties in the early going as he hit Luverne lead-off batter Zack Clark to begin the game. A walk issued to Hoff gave the Cardinals (0-4) two runners, but a 6-4-3 double play sent two runners back to the dugout, while Clark scooted to third. Zach Olson knocked in Clark with a single to left to make it a 3-1 ballgame before Jones could get Derek Van Santen to hit into an inning-ending 5-3 play.

The Panthers quickly mounted another attack in the top of the second, as lead-off batter, John Gervais, raced to first on an infield single, and Hagberg advanced to first on with a walk. Anthony Dolan was then hit by a Hoff offering and the Panthers had the bases loaded. The Cardinal would cut down Anthony Dolan at second base on a fielder's choice off the bat of Schmidt, but Gervais and Hagberg each scored on the play to give T-M-B a 5-1 advantage.

"Our offense was awesome today," Jones said. "Our bats have really been coming around the last few games."

Still, the Cardinals stayed in the contest with a run in the bottom of the second to make it a 5-2 game.

With one out in the inning, the Cardinals strung together three consecutive hits -- a single to right and a single up the middle by Brent Dinger and Anthony Graphenteen, respectively. Taylor Van Santen followed with an RBI single to left, but Chris Den Hoed's line drive to third was snared by Hagberg to end the inning.

Hoff, who gave up seven runs on six hits while striking out two and walking two over 3 1/3 innings, and the Cardinal defense shut down the T-M-B bats in the third and sent Phil Paquette to plate to open the bottom of the inning.

Paquette stepped up and launched a triple to the gap in right-center field. But that was all the offense the Cardinals could muster, as the Panthers' defense was solid behind Jones.

"That's a synopsis of our so far this season; we get a lead-off triple and can't score the runner," Luverne head coach Mike Wenninger said. "Right now, we're struggling mentally and physically -- struggling in every aspect of the game. So far, we've had a different personality each game."

The Panthers opened up the game in the top of the fourth, taking a commanding 9-2 lead.

Hagberg again started the rally with a one-out double to left. After stealing third, Hagberg scampered home on a passed ball (the fourth to batter Anthony Dolan) for a 6-2 T-M-B advantage. Schmidt joined Anthony Dolan on the base paths with a single to left and Hoff hit Isaac Dolan with a pitch to load the bases for T-M-B catcher Aaron Frisvold. Frisvold picked up an RBI, as he lifted a 2-2 pitch to deep left -- scoring Hagberg to make it a 7-2 ballgame.

Wenninger opted to spell Hoff with Dinger, but the junior didn't fare much better as he walked Schlager and gave up a towering 2-run double to the right corner of the park to Jones.

Jones and the Panthers cruised through the bottom of the fourth inning, only to see a new Luverne pitcher, Tanner Skattum, on the bump to open the fifth.

The Panthers didn't greet Skattum cordially, as lead-off batter Eric Lanoue drilled a single up the middle. Skattum then walked Hagberg and Anthony Dolan to load the bases -- prompting Wenninger to put Derek Van Santen on the hill.

Schmidt welcomed Van Santen with an RBI single to left, scoring Lanoue for a 10-2 T-M-B advantage. Isaac Dolan followed with a single to left that scored Hagberg and Anthony Dolan for a 12-2 lead.

Despite a lead-off single to left by Hoff in the bottom of the fifth, the Cardinals couldn't cut into the deficit and remain winless on the year.

The Cardinals will visit Redwood Valley for a doubleheader today, while the Panthers will travel to Prinsburg Monday to face Central Minnesota Christian.


T-M-B 320 43 -- 12 12 1

Luv. 110 00 -- 2 6 1