Giving up runs late cost Panthers
Jeremy Anderson was hoping the Park Rapids baseball team would finish with at least a .500 record this season.
Giving up runs in the late innings in several games prevented the Panthers from reaching that mark.
The Panthers finished the season with a 5-16 overall record, including a 3-9 mark in Mid-State Conference games. However, Park Rapids lost leads in the sixth inning in six games and lost four other games by three runs or less. Losing those close games cost the Panthers a shot at having a successful season.
"We did usually stay in games until the fifth or sixth innings, but we made way too many mistakes and found ways to lose," said Anderson. "The main factors that prevented us from winning more games was the fact that we needed to be better clutch hitters, make play sat the end of games when we needed them and throw strikes more consistently. Overall I would have felt better about the season if we would have finished strong in more of those games instead of falling apart in the last few innings."
Staples-Motley opened the season by shutting out the Panthers twice by scores of 11-0 in five innings and 3-0.
After defeating Pelican Rapids 6-2, the Panthers split conference doubleheaders with Crosby-Ironton and Wadena-Deer Creek.
Against C-I, the Rangers scored three times in the eighth inning and held on for a 10-9 victory in the opener. In the second game, the Panthers scored twice in the sixth to rally for a 3-2 win and the split.
W-DC scored three runs in the sixth and two runs in the seventh to win the first game 12-11. The Panthers needed a five-run rally in the seventh inning to salvage the split with an 8-7 win in the second game.
A nine-game losing streak followed as the Panthers dropped conference doubleheaders to Detroit Lakes (10-3 and 11-4) and Perham (10-1 and 2-1); lost two close games at the Park Rapids Invitational to Hawley (4-2) and Frazee (4-3 in eight innings); and lost games to Thief River Falls (6-4) and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (11-2). Hawley scored twice in the sixth and once in the seventh while Thief River Falls scored three times in both the fifth and sixth innings to overcome a 4-0 deficit.
The Panthers were in position to end that skid until Pequot Lakes scored three times in the seventh for an 8-7 victory. Park Rapids finally snapped that losing skid with an 8-5 victory in the second game of that conference doubleheader. Park Rapids led 8-1 entering the seventh inning before holding off a Pequot Lakes' rally.
The Panthers held a 6-4 lead at Fergus Falls before the Otters scored six times in the fifth and three times in the sixth for a 13-9 win. Nevis followed by scoring once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and twice in the seventh for a 5-1 win.
Despite a 12-3 win over Bagley in the regular-season finale, the Panthers received the No. 9 seed for the North Section 8AA playoffs. Park Rapids saw its season end with an 8-1 loss to No. 8 Thief River Falls, which broke open a close game by scoring six runs in the fifth inning. Fergus Falls, the No. 2 seed from the south, defeated Warroad, the No. 2 seed from the north, 3-0 in the section championship game.
For the season, the Panthers hit .264 as a team with a team ERA of 5.11. The Panthers were outscored 146 to 95, scoring three runs or less in 11 games and allowing at least 10 runs eight times. Of Park Rapids' 159 hits, only 41 went for extra bases. As a pitching staff, the Panthers allowed 143 hits and struck out 116 batters in 141 innings. However, Park Rapids' pitchers issued 105 walks and hit 25 batters.
Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Christian Ridlon, Dan Pike, Nick Belfiori and Dustin Martine; juniors Cory Odland, Sam Coborn, Jordan Eischens, Levi Erickson, Ryan Peterson, Tyler Ridlon and Hunter May; and sophomores Kyle Goplerud, Chris Goplerud and Zach Eystad. Pike, Odland, Coborn and Erickson received all-conference honorable mention honors.
Offensively, the Panthers had only three players bat above .300.
Christian Ridlon led the team with a .571 batting average (16 for 28). Ridlon had four doubles, scored five runs and had five RBI. Ridlon played right field, first base and served as a designated hitter.
Kyle Goplerud hit .308 (16 for 52) with 12 runs and four RBI. Goplerud played second base, shortstop and right field.
Odland led the Panthers with 12 doubles and 12 RBI while batting .303 (23 for 76) with 10 runs and four stolen bases. Odland played shortstop and catcher.
Chris Goplerud played left field, right field and third base and batted .300 (15 for 50) with eight runs and nine RBI.
Coborn was the starter in center field and led the team with 15 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. Coborn batted .286 (20 for 70) with six RBI.
Pike started at third base and hit .278 (20 for 72) with 12 runs and eight RBI. Pike had the team's only home run.
Belfiori hit .267 (8 for 30) with nine runs and four RBI. Belfiori, who played second base and third base and served as a designated hitter, had the team's only two triples.
Eischens saw some action at second base and hit .267 (4 for 15) with two runs and two RBI.
Eystad filled in at left field and right field and hit .250 (4 for 16).
Erickson started in left field and batted .246 (17 for 69) with 13 runs, five doubles and six RBI.
Peterson started at first base and hit .180 (11 for 61) with seven runs and three RBI.
Tyler Ridlon was the back-up catcher and hit .097 (3 for 31).
Martine started at shortstop and batted .087 (2 for 23) with two runs.
May filled in at right field.
On the mound, Erickson, Odland and Martine pitched the majority of the innings.
Erickson went 3-5 with a 4.74 ERA. In 44 1/3 innings, Erickson allowed 40 runs (30 earned) on 46 hits and 33 walks with 31 strikeouts.
Odland was second on the team with 31 innings pitched and led the team with 40 strikeouts and a 4.29 ERA. Odland went 1-4, allowing 34 runs (19 earned) on 30 hits and 31 walks.
Martine pitched 29 innings and had a 1-3 record and 4.34 ERA. Martine gave up 24 runs (18 earned) on 28 hits with six walks and 17 strikeouts.
Also seeing action on the mound were Tyler Ridlon, Christian Ridlon, Kyle Goplerud and Pike.
Tyler Ridlon pitched five innings and gave up two unearned runs on one hit and four walks with four strikeouts.
Christian Ridlon went 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in 7 2/3 innings. Ridlon allowed eight runs (five earned) on 10 hits with seven strikeouts and eight walks.
Kyle Goplerud also went 0-1 and finished with a 5.86 ERA. In 14 1/3 innings, Goplerud gave up 17 runs (12 earned) on 14 hits with 10 walks and 10 strikeouts.
Pike pitched 9 2/3 innings and went 0-2, allowing 25 runs (19 earned) on 14 hits and 13 walks with seven strikeouts.
Even though the Panthers have to replace four key players, Anderson is counting on the returning varsity players and a talented group of junior varsity players to produce an improved season in 2012.
"I expect the Panthers to improve in all facets of the game. There are a lot of good, young players who are ready to fill key positions and who are getting better by playing a lot of baseball this summer," said Anderson. "The combination of young talent and returning starters should make for good competition at key positions and help the overall success of Panther baseball."