Baseball: Chargers take down Panthers in Section 6A battle
Travis Yohnke stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning. With two outs and trailing by four runs, he was the final chance for Parkers Prairie to pull out a win. When he dug his feet into the batter's box, the Brandon-Evansville outfielders took a couple steps back.
"I thought about walking him with the bases loaded," B-E head coach Brian Perleberg said. "He took us deep in the first inning. When a guy like that is at the plate you're never safe."
Chargers pitcher Tanner Bitzan was able to retire Yohnke with a strikeout. The Brandon-Evansville fans in attendance collectively exhaled knowing their team had just won 9-5.
The mutual respect between the Panthers and the Chargers is high. The two teams separated by 26 miles are more than familiar with each other.
"We've seen so many of those guys the past few years," Perleberg said. "Their record might not show it, but that is a very good team that can beat anybody they play,"
After Yohnke cleared the fence in the first inning, Parkers prairie took a 2-0 lead. B-E quickly erased the deficit courtesy of the bottom of its lineup. Tyler Bitzan drove in three runs with a double after Jesse Perleberg drive in a run with a sac bunt.
"I got a lot of confidence after playing in a JV tournament last weekend," Bitzan said. "I went up there and tried to put good swings on the ball and ended up finding a few gaps." Bitzan drove in another run in the bottom of the sixth with his second RBI double of the game.
Parkers Prairie has had a problem with not allowing a big inning this season. On Thursday night, that big inning was the bottom of the first to quickly erase a two-run Panthers lead.
"You got to have a short memory in baseball," Parkers Prairie head coach Derek Denny said. "I think we've gotten better with it this season but we just aren't quite there yet."
After the first inning, both starting pitcher settled down. B-E Starter Marshall Riedel pitched five innings and allowed just three runs. Panthers starter Alex Koep left in the middle of the fifth inning after giving up six runs. Both starters threw over 100 pitches.
"I can't believe we were able to get six runs off of Alex," Perleberg said. "He's shut us down for years now. He's a really good pitcher."
Parkers Prairie added two runs in the top of the sixth to cut the lead to two. More runners would have crossed home plate if it weren't for Kyle Schaffran's two diving catches in right field. In what could've been a big inning for the Panthers, the Chargers' defense showed some clutch.
"I think it gives our pitchers some confidence," Bitzan said. "They're able to relax out there. We we had some errors but made some good plays in the field. Those two catches were big for us."
B-E added three insurance runs to lock up another win. For the Chargers, a win over Parkers Prairie gives them a chance to believe in themselves heading into the postseason.
"Border West and New York Mills are at the top of the section but there's a whole mess of teams right beneath them," Perleberg said. "We beat a really good group of guys today. We have a team that could really shake things up come playoff time."
Parkers Prairie has been to the state tournament the last three seasons. Leaving losses in the past is something they're used to.
"I told our guys that we are right there. We are really close to winning these games," Denny said. "We hit the ball hard today and had some good pitching. I know this team still has the capability to put it all together."