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Park Rapids head coach Marion Goeden (25) looked on as Lauren Naeve prepared to slide into third base during Tuesday night's game against Detroit Lakes at the Fargodome.

Panthers sweep Lakers at Fargodome

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  Playing the first games of the season in the first-ever appearance in the Fargodome proved fortuitous for the Park Rapids fastpitch softball team.

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     The Panthers, who were scheduled to make their season debut at home, belted out 20 hits and stole 14 bases to sweep a Mid-State Conference doubleheader from Detroit Lakes Tuesday night.

     Belting out 16 hits and stealing 11 bases sparked a 19-11 win in the first game while two timely hits led the Panthers to a 3-2 win in the second game of this doubleheader, which started at 8 p.m. Each game lasted five innings.

     “Playing in the Fargodome added to the excitement and nervousness of the opening game of our season,” said Park Rapids head coach Marion Goeden. “We were very tight at the beginning of the first game. The rebound of the ball on the turf made play even more challenging. Fortunately for us, Detroit Lakes had the same issues and challenges as we did.”

     In the opener, Emily Seebold’s three-run double sparked a five-run first inning as the Lakers jumped out to a 5-0 lead.

     The Panthers responded by scoring four runs in both the first and second innings and nine runs in the third to claim a 17-5 advantage.

     Bailee Jerger’s RBI double and Katelyn Hilmanowski’s RBI single led to four runs in the first while three errors and an RBI single by Jerger sparked the four-run second inning. Lauren Naeve’s two-run triple, Hilmanowski’s RBI double, and RBI singles by Sarena Kinkel and Hope Johnson were the key hits in the nine-run third inning.

     Seebold’s two-run homer in the fourth sparked a six-run inning as the Lakers cut the gap to 17-11.

     But the Panthers sealed the win as RBI singles by Hilmanowski and Kinkel led to the game’s final two runs in the bottom of the inning.

     Hilmanowski went 4 for 4 with three RBI, Hope Johnson went 3 for 4, and Naeve and Kinkel each went 2 for 3 to pace the Panthers’ 16-hit attack. Jerger earned the win, allowing seven hits and six walks in five innings.

     In the second game, Buckanaga’s walk-off double in the bottom of the fifth inning helped the Panthers pull off the sweep.

     Buckanaga singled and Jerger reached on an error to set up Hilmanowski’s two-run single in the first as the Panthers claimed a 2-0 lead.

     The Lakers tied the game with single runs in the second and fifth inning before Naeve led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk and Buckanaga followed with the game-winner.

     The Panthers prevailed despite being held to only four hits as Buckanaga went 2 for 3. Jerger again went the distance, allowing two runs on six hits.

     “We did not play as well as I expect we will this season, but we played well enough to win. It is always a good day when we can take two games from DL,” said Goeden. “I was especially pleased with our hitting as it is hard to duplicate in practice when we are inside. Our young players performed especially well and I really liked what I saw with our infield. The whole experience was very fun and I feel fortunate that we had this opportunity.”

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