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Panthers hit wall at state tournament

For the fourth season in a row the South Ridge Panthers headed south to the Minnesota Class A boys baseball tournament after winning the Section 7A playoffs. Last Tuesday the Panthers dropped a 10-4 decision to Sacred Heart and the following day they were eliminated from the tournament in an 8-4 loss to New Ulm Cathedral.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to end the season, but the guys tried and it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Panthers coach Aaron Weber. “We struggled on defense and you can’t do that at the state tournament.”

In the opener against Sacred Heart, the Panthers gave up two runs in the first inning and three more in the second as they fell behind 5-0.

“We didn’t stop them at all in those first few innings,” Weber said. “In that game we had a couple of errors that hurt us, and we really struggled with the wind in the outfield.”

The Panthers were able to finally get onto the scoreboard with a single run in the top of the third, but Sacred Heart answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the third. In the top of the fourth the Panthers responded with three runs to pull to within 6-4, but again Sacred Heart added three of their own to pull ahead 9-4. Sacred Heart scored the final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“We knew they could hit, but it is so hard to judge a team when you haven’t seen them play,” Weber said. “I told the other coaches prior to the game that we were playing ourselves because they are a very similar team to us. We just made too many mistakes in the game. If we had played our game, it would have been a different game.”

South Ridge banged out nine hits in the game with Aydin Archambault the only Panther to record two hits. One of Archambault’s hits was a home run. Aaron Bennett added a pair of RBIs for South Ridge.

The loss dropped the Panthers into the consolation round, where they faced New Ulm Cathedral. After a scoreless first inning, the Greyhounds pounced on the Panthers with a pair of runs in the top of the second to go up 2-0. Then the Panthers rebounded in the bottom of the third inning with three runs to go up 3-2.

“It was nice to see the way the guys fought back to get the lead,” Weber said.

Things turned ugly for the Panthers in the fifth inning when the Greyhounds struck for five runs behind five South Ridge errors.

“Things just spiraled out of control,” said Weber. “We had five errors in six plays and they ended up scoring five runs. Actually, it could have been worse and we limited the damage at least a little bit. We ended up giving them eight outs in the inning, and you can’t do that against good teams.”

Trailing 7-3 entering the bottom of the fifth inning, the Panthers were able to answer back with a run of their own, but a final run in the top of the sixth for New Ulm put the game away.

“A lot of little things didn’t go our way, but a lot of little things which we normally can control we didn’t control,” Weber said. “We always talk to the guys about controlling what you can control and just go out and play; in the two games at State, we didn’t do that.”

Wyatt Olson led the Panthers hitting attack with three hits, while Carter Anderson, Aaron Bennett, Austin Josephson and Josiah DeLoach all banged out two hits as South Ridge bashed out 12 hits in the loss.

“We hit the ball well and we actually outhit them 12-8, but defensive errors hurt us in both games,” Weber said.

Aaron Bennett and Wyatt Olson combined to give up just three earned runs. The remainder of the runs were unearned because of defensive miscues by South Ridge.

The losses end the season for the Panthers with a 17-9 record. South Ridge will graduate six players this season.

“It’s always tough to lose, but for the guys coming back we will use this to continue to try and get even better,” said Weber. “It is always tough to lose seniors to graduation that have been a big part in helping to build this program.”

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