Panthers: Victory puts team at the top of Little Minny
The Princeton Panthers are in an unusual tie for first place in the Eastern Minny League after a 2-0 win at home over Nowthen on June 20.
Joe Swanson pitched his second straight shutout for the Panthers and ran his personal scoreless inning streak to 21.
Chisago Lakes has dropped out of the league and the other six teams are being given credit for three wins each.
Official league standings show Rum River and Princeton with 9-3 records and Mora with a 7-1 record, all technically tied for first place.
Hinckley is next at 7-3, Nowthen is at 6-7 and Quamba at 4-7.
Princeton will play Mora here next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and had a game scheduled with the Blue Devils on Wednesday of this week in Princeton.
The Panthers will participate in the Bandit Bash, an eight-team tournament in Cambridge, from Friday through Sunday.
Swanson, at age 39, claims to just “throw the ball in there and let them hit it.”
But it might be a little more complicated than that.
He gave up only four hits, walked two and struck out eight.
And he escaped a monumental jam in the ninth inning to get the win.
The Panthers scored their two runs in the first inning and left seven on base after that.
Jordan Neubauer, batting leadoff because a number of Panther regulars were missing, walked to lead off the inning.
He moved to second on an out and scored on a Jesse Zimmer single.
Zimmer then scored on a two-out single by Josh Vickers.
The Panthers left runners on second and third in the fifth inning after losing a runner earlier in the inning who tried to stretch a single into a double.
Swanson, meanwhile, was mowing down Nowthen batters, with some assists from his defense.
A Nowthen runner who had reached on an error to lead off the fourth tried to go from first to third on an errant pickoff throw.
But right fielder Mark Beattie threw to second baseman Jesse Zimmer who threw to third where third baseman Josh Hanus tagged the runner out.
In the fifth inning Hanus made a diving stop and forced a runner at second. And in the eighth, with no outs, Neubauer threw out a Nowthen runner trying to steal second.
All that did was set the stage for some more Swanson heroics in the ninth.
The first two hitters singled and manager Jules Zimmer came to the mound for a conference.
“The guys [infielders] were talking about what to do and if they were going to bunt or not, but I just asked Joe if he could go and he said yes,” Zimmer said.
Swanson, never known to back away from a challenge, got the No. 4 hitter to fly out to center field but then walked the next batter to load the bases with one out.
A three-pitch strikeout followed and then, on a 3-2 pitch, the batter hit a long fly to left center.
“I thought it was going to clear the bases,” Swanson said after the game.
But center fielder Ryan Carling ran the ball down to make the catch and preserve the victory.
Swanson won a 1-0 game in his previous start, got a save in the outing before that, and pitched two scoreless innings before that.
A former Panther player, talking about Swanson after the game, said, “Joe usually finds a way.”
AB R H RBI
Neubauer,c 2 1 1 0
Carling,cf 4 0 0 0
Zimmer,2b 3 1 2 1
Beattie,rf 3 0 0 0
Vickers,ss 4 0 1 1
Bialucha,1b 4 0 1 0
Mensen,dh 4 0 0 0
Swanson,p 0 0 0 0
Hanus,3b 3 0 1 0
Danna,lf 2 0 0 0
29 2 6 2
NOWTHEN 32 0 4 0
IP H R ER BB SO Swanson 9 4 0 0 2 8
The Knights scored a run in the first, the Panthers tied it in the sixth, and Hinckley pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh, the final inning of the first game of a doubleheader.
Ludwig was the hard-luck loser for the Panthers, the run in the seventh being unearned after a leadoff double. A sacrifice fly by the No. 9 hitter plated the winning run.
He retired 10 in a row in the middle innings and got 13 of 14 through the sixth.
The Panthers had only three hits off lefty Truett Kruschel – a single by Solberg in the first, an RBI double by Carling with two outs in the sixth and a single by Beattie in the seventh.
Kyle Norman scored the run after reaching base on an error and stealing second.
After Beattie singled with one out in the seventh, Jesse Zimmer drew a pinch-hit walk with two outs. But the game ended with a groundout.
AB R H RBI
Norman,2b 3 1 0 0
Carling,cf 2 0 1 1
Solberg,ss 3 0 1 0
Ostmoe,1b 3 0 0 0
Beattie,rf 3 0 1 0
Vickers,3b 3 0 0 0
Goldsmith,lf 3 0 1 0
Mensen,dh 2 0 0 0
Zimmer,ph 0 0 0 0
Ludwig,p 0 0 0 0
Neubauer,c 2 0 0 0
24 1 3 1
HINCKLEY 25 2 6 2
IP H R ER BB SO Ludwig 6.1 6 2 1 1 2
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the first, fell behind 3-2 after three, and then had a 5-3 lead after the sixth inning of the seven-inning game.
The Panthers tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh and they proved to be important.
Erik Ostmoe opened the inning with a walk and scored on an error and Ryan Danna singled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Neubauer.
Josh Vickers gave up six hits in six innings and the Knights scored in only the third. But he got in trouble in the seventh when the leadoff hitter reached on an error and two extra-base hits followed.
Swanson relieved at that point and got two fly ball outs, one more run scoring to make it 7-5.
Another error gave Hinckley its sixth run and put a runner on second. But a pop fly ended the game, Swanson getting the save and Vickers the win.
The Panthers banged out nine hits and were assisted by five Hinckley errors.
(A box score for the game was unavailable.)