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Panthers top Vikings

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Knightstown junior Ben Brown fires the ball toward home plate against a Blue River Valley batter during Wednesday evening’s baseball game at Knightstown. Brown hurled three innings of scoreless relief to finish the game and allowed only one hit as the Panthers defeated the visiting Vikings 7-4.
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Blue River Valley’s Damon Felix (3) leads off the bag after hitting a single as Knightstown first baseman Jack Fort (42) tries to keep him close during the first inning of Wednesday evening’s baseball game at Knightstown. Felix was on base three times and scored a run, but the Panthers defeated the Vikings 7-4.
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Both Caleb Pyle (27) of host Knightstown, who leads off first base after singling in a run in the bottom of the first innng, and Blue River Valley first baseman Mason Crisp (5) watch the action at home plate during Wednesday evening’s baseball game. Pyle was 2-for-3 at the plate, drove in two runs, and scored one in the Panthers’ 7-4 win over the visiting Vikings.
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Blue River Valley’s Brayden Thompson hurls the ball toward the plate against a batter from host Knightstown during Wednesday’s baseball game. Thompson, the Vikings’ lone senior, pitched well in 3.2 innings of relief, but absorbed the loss on the mound as the Panthers defeated the visiting Vikings 7-4.
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Blue River Valley’s Drew Holcomb (10) and Knightstown first baseman Jack Fort (42) watch the action at home plate during Wednsday evening’s baseball game at Knightstown. Holcomb got on base three times with two hits and a walk and drove in a run while Fort drove in a run with a walk. The Panthers defeated the Vikings 7-4.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

KNIGHTSTOWN — When Henry County’s Blue River Valley and Knightstown High School baseball teams have met on the diamond in some games of the recent past, the Panthers had stormed their way to lopsided wins, that at times ended under the 10-run rule. 

However, that wasn’t the case Wednesday evening as the visiting Vikings battled Knightstown for the full distance before absorbing a 7-4 loss.

The Panthers improved to 3-1 for the season while Blue River stands at 1-2.

“We could have played better, but I’m proud of the way our guys stuck to it and were able to persevere when one-or-two hits by them (Vikings) could have turned the outcome around,” Knightstown Coach Daren Hardesty said after the game. “We have a lot of games coming up, and I used several pitchers today because of that. We struggled at times with walks and allowing runners on base, but we didn’t allow them to have a really big inning against us. We did what we had to do to get the win.”

This game couldn’t be called an artistic masterpiece, as there were many walks, some hit batsmen, and a few errors, but it was close all the way and the outcome was in doubt until Knightstown added a pair of insurance runs in the last of the sixth inning.

The Vikings, who have only one senior on the team, actually out-hit the host Panthers 6-3, but left the bases loaded three times, and a total of 12 on the bags, when a timely hit could have changed the outcome.

“We’re young and we’re still trying to learn how to win,” Blue River Coach Jake Isenbarger said afterward. “They’re (Panthers) a good team and kind of young like us. We had some opportunities today with the bases loaded, and we need to be able to put the ball into play in those situations because you never know what may happen when you do. If you strike out, that doesn’t happen.”

Knightstown left the bases loaded twice and stranded a total of 10 runners on the sacks, but were better able to cash in on their scoring opportunities than were the visitors.

Sophomore Brock Corbett started on the hill for the Panthers and gave up a one-out single to Blue River’s Damon Felix in the top of the first, but recorded two strikeouts and a groundout to retire the side.

Junior Devon Brummett started on the mound for Blue River and control issues immediately ensued for him as he walked Knightstown leadoff batter Aaron Reagan on five pitches, plunked Jose Olivo in the back with a toss, walked Jack Fort on four pitches, and issued a base on balls to Ben Newby on a 3-2 count to force Reagan across the plate for the game’s first run.

Caleb Pyle then stepped up and singled to centerfield to plate Olivo for a 2-0 Panther advantage with the bags still juiced. But Brummett settled down and fanned the next three batters to get out of the inning with only those two runs scoring.

The Vikings got one of those runs back in the top of the second, but could have had more. Tanner Walradth led off with a single to right centerfield, moved to second base when Clayton Hamm reached on an error, and took third on Drew Holcomb’s infield hit which loaded the sacks. 

Corbett struck out the next two batters, but then walked Brummett on a full-count pitch to force Walradth across the plate, trimming the host’s lead to 2-1. The next batter grounded out to end the inning, leaving bases loaded.

Reagan walked with one out in the last of the second, stole second base, and took third after Fort reached base on a dropped third strike with two away. But Knightstown didn’t score.

Max Muncy came in to pitch for Knightstown in the top of the third inning and Blue River managed to tie the game, but again could have scored more. 

With one out, Brayden Thompson walked and Walradth was plunked by a pitch. The next batter struck out, but Holcomb blooped a single into short centerfield and Thompson came in to score, tying the game at 2-2.

Bryce Klein walked on five pitches to fill the sacks, but the next batter whiffed to end the inning.

Thompson came in to pitch for the Vikings in the bottom of the third and the Panthers nicked him for three runs, one of them unearned.

Pyle led off by getting hit by a pitch, took second on Ben Brown’s ground ball out, and scored on Muncy’s double to centerfield. Muncy took third on the throw-in and scored on a passed ball.

The next batter struck out, but Corbett reached base on an error, stole second base, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored after an error on Reagan’s batted ball for a 5-2 Knightstown advantage. After Reagan took second on a wild pitch, the next batter flied to right to end the inning.

Blue River responded by getting two runs back off new Panther pitcher Reagan in the top of the fourth inning. With one out, Felix walked and Mason Crisp was plunked by a Reagan pitch. Both runners moved up a base on Thompson’s groundout.

With two down and Walradth at the plate, Felix scored and Crisp moved to third on a passed ball. Walradth walked on four pitches putting runners at the corners, and Crisp scored on a single by Clayton Hamm to pull the Vikings to within 5-4.

Holcomb walked after a nine-pitch at-bat to fill the bags, but Reagan fanned the next batter after being down 2-0 in the count to retire the side.

After Knightstown went down in order against Thompson in the last of the fourth, Blue River had a chance to tie or take the lead against the fourth Panther pitcher of the game, Brown, in the top of the fifth inning.

After the leadoff batter struck out on four pitches, Brummett doubled to right centerfield and Brown hit Felix with a pitch. Crisp followed with a single to right field, but Brummett was tagged out at home plate by catcher Corbett after a fine throw by rightfielder Newby. Brown fanned the next batter to get out of the inning with no runs scored.

In the bottom of the fifth, Brown walked and Muncy’s sacrifice bunt moved Brown to second base. But he didn’t score as the next two batters were retired on fly balls to the outfield.

Walradth reached base on an error leading off the top of the sixth inning, but Blue River didn’t score. Knightstown then got those two insurance runs in the bottom of the frame.

Reagan walked leading off the last of the sixth and scored after a pair of Viking throwing errors. The next two hitters struck out and grounded out. With two away, Newby walked on a 3-2 pitch, stole second base, and scored on Pyle’s double to left centerfield to boost the Panther lead to 7-4. 

Felix came in to pitch for the Vikings and walked Brown and Muncy to fill the sacks. But Felix whiffed the next batter on four pitches to end the inning.

Brown retired Blue River on two groundouts and a fly ball to the outfield to end the game after 2:21 of playing time as darkness started to descend on the diamond.

“We have a good group and they’re working hard every day to improve,” Isenbarger added. “Sometimes that doesn’t show up on the scoreboard, but we’re getting better. If we play Knightstown again, the outcome may be different, but they’ll improve, too, so you never know.”

On Saturday, the Vikings play at Wes-Del for a Mid-Eastern Conference game while Knightstown is at rival Eastern Hancock for a non-conference doubleheader.

“This is the first game we’ve played this season that hasn’t been a blowout,” Hardesty added. “One reason is that Blue River is a good, young team with kids who can play baseball, and they’ll be a tough team to beat as the season goes along. This game was good for us going into Saturday’s doubleheader at Eastern Hancock because we expect those games to be close and we’ll need to be able to work out of tight spots and jams.”