Panthers' 6-12 season was deceptive
Allowing big innings prevented Park Rapids baseball team from posting winning record
Dan Etter can point to one factor that prevented a winning record for the Park Rapids baseball team this season.
“Our record doesn’t really reflect how good we were as a team,” said Etter, whose team finished with a 6-12 overall mark. “We lost most of our games because of one bad inning. We had a hard time stopping the bleeding in those innings.”
The Panthers gave up at least three runs in an inning 19 times in 13 games and ended up losing 12 of those. Offensively, Park Rapids scored at least three runs in an inning 10 times, but went 4-5 in those games. Etter’s team averaged 4.2 runs a game while allowing 7.3 runs an outing. Hitting only .198 as a team while posting a 6.69 team ERA also prevented the Panthers from having more success.
Park Rapids opened the season by going 3-2 in the first five games with a 6-1 Mid-State Conference victory over Crosby-Ironton, a 5-0 loss to Wadena-Deer Creek, a split with Detroit Lakes in a conference doubleheader (losing 6-5 and winning 8-3) and defeating Staples-Motley 2-1 in the first game of a conference doubleheader.
A seven-game losing streak followed as the Panthers were outscored 52-8 in losses to Staples-Motley (6-4 in the second game of a doubleheader), East Grand Forks (14-0 in five innings), Pequot Lakes (7-2 and 18-0 in five innings in a Mid-State doubleheader) and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (7-2). Aitkin swept the Panthers by scores of 9-8 in nine innings and 10-9 in a game that was called after six innings because of darkness in another conference doubleheader.
A 3-2 win in 10 innings over Crosby-Ironton in the Mid-State finale in the completion of a suspended game ended that losing streak and gave Park Rapids a 4-6 record for fourth place in the conference standings. Aitkin won the conference title with a 9-1 mark and finished 17-7 overall while Pequot Lakes went 8-2 in the conference (13-8 overall) and Detroit Lakes finished at 4-5 in the conference (6-13 overall). Staples-Motley (3-6 in the conference, 7-12 overall) and Crosby-Ironton (1-9 in the conference, 10-10 overall) rounded out the Mid-State standings.
Park Rapids split its final two regular-season games, falling to Perham 9-2 and defeating Bagley 8-1.
Going 2-7 against Section 8AA teams and 5-10 during the regular season gave the Panthers the No. 6 seed in the North for the section playoffs. Park Rapids used a five-run second inning and six-run sixth inning to upset No. 3 Roseau 11-8 before being eliminated from the Section 8AA tournament with losses to No. 7 Hawley (8-1) and No. 5 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (16-4 in five innings). Perham (the No. 1 seed in the South) defeated Wadena-Deer Creek (the No. 2 seed in the South) 9-5 in the section championship game. Roseau ended the season with a 13-7 record, Hawley finished at 11-11, D-G-F went 15-9 overall, Perham closed with a 23-4 record and W-DC finished with a 24-3 record.
“We play a tough schedule and play in a tough section,” said Etter. “On paper, we weren’t supposed to compete with Roseau, but we played to our potential and showed how good we can be when we play at the level we are capable of playing.”
Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Gabe Bagstad (shortstop), Lucas Dickinson (third base), Cameron Hoyt (second base/shortstop), Ty Karger (center field), Brendan Kruchowski (first base) and Tristin Persons (catcher); juniors Jens Anderson (outfield), Hunter Carnell (third base/first base), Tanner Hensel (outfield) and Joey Stachowski (first base/outfield); sophomores Brody Hagen (outfield) and Chaise Persons (second base); and freshman Isaiah Olson (second base/outfield). Bagstad, Kruchowski, Hensel and Anderson handled most of the pitching duties.
Bagstad received Section 8AA and Mid-State Conference honors and was named the team’s MVP and Mr. Offense after going 5-1 with a 3.70 ERA on the mound and hitting .291 (16 for 55, including five doubles and three triples) with a team-leading 13 stolen bases, 11 RBI and 11 runs scored in 18 games. In eight pitching appearances, Bagstad allowed 21 runs (17 earned) on 45 hits and 24 walks with 53 strikeouts in 41.3 innings.
Karger earned all-conference honors after leading the team with a .340 batting average (18 for 53, including seven doubles and a home run) with 10 runs and nine RBI in 18 games. Karger also made three pitching appearances.
Tristin Persons received all-conference honorable mention honors after batting .150 (9 for 60, including two doubles) with 10 stolen bases, 10 runs and four RBI in 18 games.
Hagen also received all-conference honorable mention honors after hitting .160 (8 for 50, including two doubles) with seven runs, five steals and three RBI. Hagen also made two pitching appearances.
Kruchowski batted .261 (12 for 46, including two doubles and a triple) with 11 runs, seven RBI and seven steals in 18 games. Kruchowski also pitched in seven games, going 0-6 with a 9.00 ERA. In 26 innings, Kruchowski allowed 39 runs (26 earned) on 36 hits and 31 walks while striking out 21.
Dickinson played in all 18 games and batted .157 (8 for 51) with four runs and five RBI.
Hoyt started all 18 games and hit .116 (5 for 43) with seven runs and five RBI while making three pitching appearances.
Hensel hit .250 (5 for 20) with six runs and two RBI in 10 games and went 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in seven appearances on the mound. Hensel pitched 18.6 innings and gave up 16 runs (eight earned) on 27 hits and eight walks with 15 strikeouts.
Anderson played in 13 games and batted .182 (6 for 33) with three runs and two RBI while going 0-3 in three pitching appearances. Anderson threw 13.3 innings and allowed 15 runs (nine earned) on 22 hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts for a 6.08 ERA.
Carnell played in seven games and hit .143 (1 for 7), Stachowski played in nine games and batted .111 (2 for 18) with three runs, Olson played in eight games and hit .083 (1 for 12) with a run while making three pitching appearances, and Chaise Persons played in 11 games and batted .067 (1 for 15) with two runs.
The pitching staff combined for 85 strikeouts while allowing 163 hits and 102 walks and hitting 22 batters. The defense committed 42 errors that led to 41 unearned runs.
Looking ahead to next season, the Panthers have six starting spots to fill. However, Etter sees plenty of potential in the underclassmen.
“This year’s seniors are going to be missed. They are all great kids and great ball players. Almost all of them played a significant role on the varsity team since they were sophomores,” said Etter. “There is a lot of talent in our youth and I feel the program will be competitive in years to come.”