Pilgrims survive Panthers at home

PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth bats found a way to win at the end and benefited from a good pitching performance by Jordan Scheetz once again in a 5-4 victory over the visiting NorthWood Panthers Friday night.
Scheetz rebounded from a shaky start to retire 16 straight Panthers in the victory, and the Pilgrims plated two runs in the bottom of the seventh to rally past their Northern Lakes Conference foes.
“I was going to feel terrible if we didn’t come out with those couple runs in the seventh,” said Plymouth skipper Tony Plothow. “We would have just wasted a great pitching performance if we didn’t win.”
NorthWood jumped out to a three-run lead after the visiting half of the first inning.
A leadoff walk to Tanner Roberts set the table for the Panthers. Brock Spitaels followed it up with a single down the first baseline, and Roberts advanced to third base. Another single — this time on a shallow fly ball between short and left field by Will Kirkwood — plated the first NorthWood run. A fielding error by Plymouth shortstop Connor Flynn allowed Chad Ervin to reach and scored Spitaels for the second run of the inning. A soft liner to right by Blake Cleveland scored Kirkwood for the third run. Ryan Gerber sacrificed runners to second and third base, but a strikeout and a ground ball to second base left them stranded on the base paths.
Plymouth had an answer in the form of Chase Peters in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, he hit a hard line drive that carried over the left field fence in a hurry for a home run. Jacob Seagraves and Ike Kastner followed the shot up with base hits of their own but were stranded when a strikeout ended the inning.
The Pilgrims tied the game in the third.
Flynn walked to lead off the inning and Peters singled for his second straight hit in the game, allowing Flynn to advance to third base. Seagraves hit a ground ball to NorthWood’s Kyle McCoy at shortstop, and he threw to the plate to try to cut down the run. Flynn was able to slide around the tag to trim the Panther lead to one, but the next two Plymouth hitters flew out and failed to advance the runners. Trent Briles came through with a two-out double down the right field line to score Peters and tie the game at three.
Scheetz was excellent through the next four innings as the lefty starter retired the Panthers in order through the fifth inning. With one out in the sixth, Scheetz left a changeup over the plate and up in the strike zone to NorthWood clean-up hitter Ervin. The big lefty deposited the mistake over the right field fence to give NorthWood the lead again at 4-3.
NorthWood starter Tanner Roberts set the Pilgrims down in order in the sixth, but Plymouth was able to get to him again in the seventh.
Blake Milliser reached first on a ground ball that was misplayed by the Panther shortstop. Joe Knapp popped a bunt attempt straight up and into the mitt of the catcher for the first out of the inning. Flynn followed that up with a pop-out to short and cut Plymouth down to its final out, but the Pilgrims weren’t giving up.
Peters hit a hard ground ball up the middle that the Panther shortstop dove for. He made the play but wasn’t able to flip the ball fast enough to second base to get the out on a hustling Milliser. Seagraves stepped up to the plate and took an 0-2 pitch to right field to score Milliser from second and tie the game, and the hit moved Peters up to third base. Plymouth senior Cole Mann entered the game to pinch run for Seagraves at first. Kastner battled his way to a full count in the next at bat. With the count full and two outs, the standard play in baseball for that situation would be for Mann to run on the pitch. As soon as Roberts lifted his leg, Mann took off for second base, but instead of throwing to the plate, the NorthWood pitcher tried to make a pick-off attempt to third base. Mann didn’t stop running, and Roberts tried to make a play on him. His throw to second hit Mann in the helmet and bounced into shallow center field, allowing Peters to score the winning run for the Pilgrims.
NorthWood Head Coach Zach Benko was happy with the pitching performance he got from Roberts but was disappointed with his team’s offensive production.
“He (Roberts) left the ball up at times, but overall I thought it was a good enough performance to win,” he said. “We just didn’t get it done at the plate tonight.
“I wasn’t really impressed with our approach at the plate. We just need to simplify some things. We are good athletes and good hitters, but I think we are over-thinking some things. We didn’t play well enough at the plate to win today.”
With the win the Pilgrims improve to 7-5 on the season and 4-1 in Northern Lakes Conference play. NorthWood drops to 9-5 on the season and 3-2 in the conference.
Plymouth returns to action on Monday with an away game at Warsaw. The Pilgrims will then host Warsaw on Tuesday in a make-up of a rain-out game from last week. NorthWood returns to action today as the Panthers travel to Bremen for an 11 a.m. start against the Lions.
At Plymouth
NorthWood: 300 001 1 – 4 5 2
Plymouth: 102 000 2 – 5 8 2
Jordan Scheetz (W) and Jacob Seagraves; Tanner Roberts (L) and Blake Cleveland
2B: Trent Briles (P)
HR: Chase Peters (P), Chad Ervin (NW)
Records: Plymouth 7-5 (4-1 NLC), NorthWood 9-5 (3-2 NLC)