Fairbanks second baseman Alex Blumenschein slaps the tag on a Cedarville runner who tries to steal the bag on Tuesday. The Panthers downed the Indians, 11-5.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Good baseball teams will find a way to win a game after encountering a bit of adversity.
While the Fairbanks Panthers never had to worry about trailing Cedarville on Tuesday, they did have to show some intestinal fortitude after the Indians rallied from what FHS considered a comfortable lead.
The Panthers held what most would consider a relatively safe 8-0 advantage after three innings.
FHS head coach Josh Rine, however, knew his squad couldn’t take anything for granted.
“Cedarville has shown this season that it is a good hitting team,” he said.
The Indians backed up that claim when they tallied five runs in the visitors’ portion of the fifth inning.
That run production sliced the Panthers’ lead to 8-5, but Fairbanks answered with three runs in the home half of the frame during an 11-5 victory.
If there is an underlying story to the contest, it’s the fact that neither team played stellar defense.
The Indians committed four fielding miscues, while the Panthers were charged with three.
FHS’ fielding miscues led to a trio of Cedarville runs.
“Mason (starting pitcher Cushman) threw strikes, but at times we couldn’t make plays behind him,” said Rine.
The Panthers did make noise with their bats, especially over the second and third innings.
FHS scored its first run in the bottom of the opening inning.
Cedarville starter C. J. Pahl issued consecutive walks to Jaeden Eickhoff and Braxton Wilhelm to begin the home half of the frame.
Connor Pack then flared a base hit that loaded the bases.
Cushman helped himself at the plate with a sacrifice fly that drove in the first run of the evening.
Pahl got out of the jam by getting a strikeout and a fly ball out.
The Indian righty lasted only one more inning as the Panthers stretched their lead to 4-0.
With two down in the second, Grant Rausch doubled and Eickhoff reached on a fielding miscue.
Wilhelm singled in Rausch.
FHS climbed to a 3-0 lead on a run after Connor Pack reached on an error.
Cushman then gave Fairbanks a 4-0 spread with a base hit.
The Panthers rudely greeted Indian reliever Caden McKinnon with four runs in the third.
Alex Jones led off with a single and went to second on Alex Blumenschein’s sacrifice bunt.
Weston Lorenz drew a free pass and Rausch was safe on a fielder’s choice that left runners perched on the corners.
Eickhoff was plunked with a pitch that loaded the bases.
Wilhelm, a right-handed batter, then went to the opposite field and drove in three runs for a 7-0 FHS advantage.
Fairbanks climbed to an 8-0 lead when a run scored on an Indian error.
Cushman pitched the first four innings without two much trouble.
That all changed during the visitors’ portion of the fifth.
The Panthers forgot their fielding prowess during the frame and committed three errors.
Those miscues, plus a hit batsman and a base hit, led to all of Cedarville’s runs.
Fairbanks made a pitching change to Eickhoff during the carnage.
By the time he notched a strikeout and coaxed a grounder to the infield, the Indians had pulled to within 8-5.
Instead of hanging their heads, the Panthers went right back to work against McKinnon.
With one down in the bottom of the fifth, Eickhoff singled and went to second when Wilhelm legged out an infield hit.
McKinnon induced a popup for the second out before Cushman strode to the plate.
The Panther hitter watched the first two pitches as they went outside the strike zone.
Cushman had a 2-1 count when he whipped his bat around and crushed the ball.
The sphere did not stop sailing until it cleared the left field fence for a three-run homer.
Cushman took a tour around the base paths as he accounted for five RBIs on the day.
“Mason’s home run was huge,” said Rine.
Pinch-hitter Ryker Beaty followed with a single, but McKinnon got out of further trouble with a ground ball out.
Cedarville got two runners on in the top of the sixth on a walk and fielder’s choice.
Eickhoff, though, notched a punchout and a ball to the infield to end the inning.
McKinnon put the Panthers down in order during the bottom of the sixth.
Eickhoff then yielded a single by Tommy Lowe to start the seventh.
The Panther hurler recorded a strikeout and got the second out of the inning on a fielder’s choice.
A groundball then put an exclamation point on the Panthers’ win.
Cushman earned the victory on the mound. He allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) during four innings of work. He struck out three and walked three.
Eickhoff surrendered three hits and fanned three during a trio of innings.
The Panthers, who are 9-4 overall and 6-3 in the Ohio Heritage Conference, will travel to Greeneview on Friday.
C’ville 000 050 0-5 8 4
FHS 134 030 x-11 11 3
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