PACKWOOD — When the Pekin High School baseball team plays good defense, the Panthers also hit as well.
Monday night, Pekin was able to sync up both aspects of the game.
The Panthers scored three times in the opening inning, received six solid innings from pitcher Caleb Comstock, then held on in a pressure-packed seventh inning for a 7-5 nonconference victory for Senior Night at Pekin High School.
“We played great defense tonight, but we also hit the ball hard,” Pekin coach Curtis Reighard said. “But Davis County is always a good team. They’re always well-coached and they just play good baseball. We were fortunate tonight.”
The Panthers (12-8) needed three pitchers to get through the seventh inning, but catcher Quinn Ledger picked off Caden Hill at third base with the bases loaded for a crucial second out. Davis County (11-8) left the bases loaded; the Mustangs scored four of their five runs in the final two innings.
The Mustangs also stranded 11 runners throughout the game.
“We really haven’t clicked for the last 1 1/2 to two weeks, more offensively than anything else,” Davis County coach Todd White said. “We haven’t been getting those timely hits, but hopefully we can start to get some of them pretty soon.”
Ledger’s two-run single put the Panthers up 2-0 in the opening inning against Mustangs starter Kade Tharp, who was on a pitch count, as were all of the Mustangs’ pitchers. Kennan Winn then hit a solo home run to make it a 3-0 contest.
The Panthers then took a comfortable 5-0 lead in the second, with Tanner Bainbridge driving in a run. Davis County got on the scoreboard in the third as Tharp just missed a homer to center field, but scored Owen Bennett anyway.
Comstock pitched a solid game. He threw six innings and allowed three runs, struck out six and walked three.
“He had senior smarts out there today,” Reighard said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a guy go more than 100 pitches. He was getting a bit tired at the end, but you’d kind of expect that. He’s a four-year starter, though, and he’s smart.”
The seventh was an adventure for the Panthers, who led 7-3. Bainbridge walked the first two hitters he faced before exiting, then Noah Zmolek drew a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and Logan Hale a bases-loaded walk against Chandler Stull to make it 7-5.
The pickoff was a momentum-changer.
“He’s a lifelong catcher,” Reighard said of Ledger. “He’s just a great catcher because that’s what he does.”
“In Caden’s defense, he doesn’t run the bases often,” White said. “That was a tough one.”
Latcham then struck out Owen Bennett with the bases loaded to end the game.
“We’ve been slow starters this year,” White said. “We have guys who seem to want to play catch-up. I thought our pitchers threw pretty well tonight. We got a couple guys in that needed work.”
Reighard, whose team was coming of a run-run loss to Mediapolis Thursday, bounced back in a big way.
“Right now we just need to find some consistency,” he said. “But if we play like tonight, we can be tough to beat.”
Davis County hosts Cardinal today, while Pekin hosts Danville and Fairfield for a doubleheader Wednesday.
Chad Drury can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury