Backyard rivalries sometimes write their own story.
When Panther Valley and Marian meet on a baseball diamond, the Panthers simply refuse to lose.
Yesterday afternoon in Hometown, the script held true to form – Another year, another game, another Panther Valley victory.
With the Panthers authoring a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Colts, Panther Valley extended its winning streak against Marian to nine games. The last time the Colts defeated PV was in 2006.
"The game against Marian is a lot bigger for the kids than it is for us as coaches, and I think that's just because the kids know each other so well," stated Panther Valley head coach John Cooper. "If there's one game our kids get excited for each year, this seems to be the one."
"They take a lot of pride in battling these guys and they came in really excited and ready to play ball," added Cooper. "We got down 2-0 early on, but the kids fought back with some timely hitting and great defense."
After starting the year 1-8, Panther Valley has now won three of its last six games to improve to 4-11 overall (1-8 league).
Marian scored its first run in the opening inning with a Peter Baddick RBI single to center, and added its second run in the ensuing frame when Luke Stawick scored from third as Eric Swankoski was caught in a run down on a pick off attempt at first base.
However, Panther Valley got both runs back in the top of the third inning. With two outs, back-to-back walks and a balk put runners on second and third for cleanup hitter Mark Williams. Williams belted a double to right field to score Jake Szczecina and Pat Owens to tie the game at 2-2.
The Panthers threatened in the fourth inning with two men on and one out; however, Nate Hrebik grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to thwart the rally.
Panther Valley finally took a 3-2 lead in the fifth frame when a Mark Williams fielders choice ground out scored Richie Smith from third base.
"Just the other day, one of my assistant coaches came up to me and said, 'You know, you haven't won in a long time against these guys (Panther Valley)' and he's right," said Marian head coach Jeff Nietz. "I told my team before and after the game that we can't let Panther Valley get in our heads. It's a great local rivalry, but for whatever reason, our guys just tighten up beyond belief when we play them."
The Panthers loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but failed to score when Luke Stano flied out to extinguish the threat. Panther Valley finally tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when Mark Williams scored on a Marian throwing error.
Panther Valley tallied nine hits on the day, but stranded 11 base runners. Williams finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run, and three RBI.
"I was hoping we could have tacked on a few more runs there at the end, but we left a lot of scoring opportunities out on the field," added Cooper, as the Panthers left seven men on base over the final three innings. "Mark Williams is our go-to guy and he's producing right now. We know he's usually going to put the bat on the ball in key spots and he came through with a few clutch hits for us today."
For Marian (6-7, 5-6), Peter Baddick had two hits and an RBI.
"This is a terrible loss for us – not just because of the rivalry, but because we were looking for points for the playoffs," concluded Nietz. "Panther Valley made the plays tonight and we didn't, it's as simple as that. They combined hits with our mistakes to get ahead, and we just couldn't put anything together."
"Tonight, we just made things tougher on ourselves. We wanted to get one step closer to qualifying (for playoffs), but now we're in a bigger dog fight than we bargained for."
Panther Valley 002 010 1 - 4 9 1
Marian 110 000 0 - 2 6 3
Stano and Black; Kweder, Stawick (6) and Snerr. W - Stano. L - Kweder.