Panthers secure split with Wapello

Pekin pitcher Brady Latcham delivers to the plate during Southeast Iowa Superconference north division prep baseball action against Wapello on Tuesday.

PEKIN — Baseball is a game of adjustments.

Adjusting to pitchers. Adjusting to hitters. Adjustments on defense.

For Tanner Bainbridge, an adjustment off the field helped the senior produce a big night at the plate for the Pekin baseball team. Bainbridge went 6-7 at the plate, scoring four times while driving in two during a 13-run fourth-inning that helped the Panthers secure a much-needed Southeast Iowa Superconference north division win over Wapello.

After falling in the first of two games with the Indians, 4-2, Pekin broke things open in a big way in game two. The Panthers batted around, twice, and turned a 2-2 tie into a run-rule 15-4 victory to salvage a split, snapping a four-game losing streak during that included just 10 runs scored in 26 innings.

"When you swing the bat like that and you hit the ball as hard as we did in that fourth inning, good things will happen," Pekin head baseball coach Curtis "Pi" Reighard said. "We were just out on our front foot in that first game. It's not that we played that bad. If we keep hitting like we did in that fourth inning, we'll be better. We haven't hit like that in the past four games."

For Bainbridge, the day began with a visit to a new doctor to help deal with a nagging back injury. Bainbridge got an adjustment that helped loosen up his bat, which in turn led to better swings as the senior opened the night with three singles and a run scored in game one against Wapello.

Bainbridge added a single in the opening inning of game two, moving Chase Stansberry in position to come home on an RBI hit by Kennan Winn to put Pekin up 1-0. Bainbridge doubled and scored in the third, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

"I kind of got my swing back. I was able to swing the bat fully. It felt great in the batting cage before the game," Bainbridge said. "Everything felt like it was coming back together."

Wapello (3-6, 2-5 SEI north) made a push to try and complete a sweep in the nightcap as starting pitcher Caleb Comstock began to struggle with his command. The Indians tied the game on back-to-back hit batters following a single by Brenton Ross and a bases-loaded walk drawn by Chase Witte before Mason Juhl came on with one out, keeping the score tied by striking out Jake Gustison and forcing Evan Ross into an inning-ending groundout.

Comstock, however, showed glimpses of brilliance on the mound retiring the first eight batters of the game while taking a no-hitter into the fourth.

"When Caleb is on, he's very good. Our pitching isn't bad. If our hitting comes around consistently, we've got a chance to be a pretty good team," Reighard said.

Case in point, the bottom of the fourth. While Juhl finished out the win in relief, Wapello went to three different pitchers in one inning as the Panthers collected eight hits, drew seven walks and nearly made a bid to walk-off with a 15-run victory before stranding two runners on base, allowing the Indians to bat in the fifth.

"We all just came together and got our confidence up," said senior catcher Quinn Ledger after collecting two hits and driving in three runs in the fourth inning of game two. "It was a lot of fun. We finally clicked in that fourth inning. We've been struggling in the last few games, but we finally got it together. We finally strung some hits together."

Winn singled in two runs in game one for the Panthers (6-6, 5-3 SEI north), who will return to action at Winfield-Mount Union on Thursday. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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