INDEPENDENCE — Coming off a 10-0 shutout against Crescent Valley (18-3 overall, 8-2 Mid-Willamette Conference) on April 28, the Central High School Panthers baseball team struggled to execute at-bats against Corvallis on May 1, but managed to post a 4-3 win with a late run in the seventh inning.
“Today was a tough day,” said senior Brendan Lesmeister after the game. “Coming in, ranking high, we can’t look over these teams. They’re ranked lower, but still. All it takes is having one good day and one bad day and you’ll lose. We gotta get the sticks rolling. We did pretty good against Crescent Valley, didn’t come out today ready to hit, but we need to come more ready.”
Picking up three runs in the first inning, the Corvallis Spartans (6-15 overall, 3-9 MWC) entered the second stanza in the lead.
The Panthers (15-4 overall, 8-2 MWC) lacked energy in the sticks, and as a result, were unable to put any runners through until senior Hunter Chase put the Panthers on board with a run at the bottom of the third inning.
Two more Panthers crossed the plate, and the teams entered the fourth inning knotted 3-3.
This was Lesmeister’s second time pitching this season, coming back after a concussion.
“I threw three innings last week, but other than that, since being back this was my first five inning outing. So, just getting back into things. I did all right.”
The game stayed stagnant, with both teams unable to find a way across the plate.
In the sixth inning, sophomore Justin Girod replaced Lesmeister in the circle. With one strike under his belt and a runner on first, Girod allowed a hit that flew right into Lesmeister’s mitt at first base. Acting fast, Lesmeister leaned down and tagged the runner trying to get back onto first base in time, posting two outs simultaneously to make quick work of the sixth inning.
In the seventh inning, the Panthers managed to nab some hits that put runners on base. Senior Ricky Taylor clinched a run, putting the Panthers up 3-4 to win the game.
Head coach Tom Roberts said it wasn’t the best game the team has played.
“It is what it is, but we scratched across when we needed to,” Roberts said. “And Brendan really got into the groove after the first inning; he’s just now coming back pitching, so that was good to see.
“We were on a really high high, and in baseball you have highs and you have lows, and so to be able to get through this low and to get the win still, is good. So, scratch this one, take the W, and move on to their place (on Friday), but we have to come with a lot better energy. I assume they’re going to play their star pitcher, so we gotta go right away or else, it’s hard when you’re playing catch up.”
Six games remain of the regular season. If they want a shot in the post season, Roberts said keeping focused at each practice and game is key.
“Keeping our energy up and playing within ourselves,” Roberts said. “Sometimes, when you get to where you want to get to, and you look and you see other team’s records aren’t where yours are, we take teams light, and so that’s one thing, we just need to keep ourselves in check.”
Lesmeister agreed with his coach.
“We’ve got the pitching, we’ve got the guys that pitch every game, we just gotta bring the sticks every day,” he said. “Down the road we’re looking at playoffs. When we get there, we can’t play like this or it won’t happen.”
Friday, the Panthers pulled off a 2-1 at Corvallis.
Wednesday, they host Lebanon at 5 p.m.