The Princeton Panthers looked to bounce back from a tight, one-run loss against the Quamba Cubs, as the Hinckley Knights came to town on June 9 to take on the Panthers at Solheim Field.
Princeton was not able to do so, falling by yet another one-run score, as a complete game gem led to the 5-4 loss on their home field.
Lucas Willis, the starting pitcher for the Knights, was able to turn out the workhorse performance on the mound, throwing 151 pitches, allowing two earned runs, while striking out nine Panthers in the victory.
Though Willis was able to get the best of Princeton, it appeared that the Panthers would be on the right side of the score as they were able to jump out to the 2-0 lead after three innings of play thanks to a strong start by Luke Hallbeck on the mound.
Entering into the top of the fourth, Hallbeck found himself with two-runners after a single and walk facing Cory Schmidt of the Knights. Schmidt was able to take the Hallbeck offering and drive it over the left field fence for the three-run blast, propelling Hinckley back in front, 3-2.
Hallbeck was able to battle through the rest of the fourth, finishing his day with four innings pitched, three runs allowed and five strikeouts to go along with three walks.
After a shutout inning by Willis in the bottom half of the inning, Sam Archer took over on the mound for the Panthers.
Loading the bases with nobody out, Archer was able to escape the jam, but not before allowing another run to cross home plate with Princeton now trailing 4-2 into the bottom of the fifth.
Another shutout inning by Willis, while Archer allowed another run to score brought Hinckley’s lead to 5-2 with Princeton running out of opportunities to tie the game.
As the game entered into the later innings, the Panthers found themselves in position to push runs across the board, but failed to come through with the big hit.
With the game still remaining at 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Princeton was finally able to inch closer scoring another run to cut the lead to two for the Knights.
After a scoreless top of the ninth by Damon Rademacher, the Panthers found themselves in a prime opportunity to tie or win the game in the bottom of the inning. Princeton put another run on the board, cutting the lead to one as the team still had the bases loaded with just a single out in the inning.
Willis was able to respond, punching out the next Panther batter, while getting a fly ball to center field to end the threat and the game, sending Princeton to its second straight loss.
Hallbeck was handed the loss in the contest as the Panthers dropped to 1-2 on the year.
Leading Princeton at the plate was Tanner Kinney, who picked up two hits and a run batted in in the losing effort.
Looking to get back into the win column, the Panthers will now prepare for a busy weekend as they travel to take on the Ramsey Renegades, Nowthen Knights and Mora Blue Devils starting on June 18 starting with the Renegades and ending with the Blue Devils on June 20.