UTHS 7-12, ROCKY 6-8
EAST MOLINE — The Panthers of United Township High School brought their can-do attitude and offensive prowess to Saturday afternoon’s Western Big 6 Conference home doubleheader and turned it into a sweep of the Rock Island Rocks.
In the first game, UTHS came back from four runs down in the bottom of the seventh inning to score five times en route to a 7-6 victory. And in the nightcap, the Panthers jumped ahead of Rocky early, and held on to win 12-8.
“I couldn’t have asked for more out of our guys, taking both ends of the doubleheader against a very good Rock Island team,” said UT coach Mike Meyers, whose club improved to 5-8, 2-5 in the Big 6. “It was just what we needed, getting our first conference wins, especially the way we came back in the first game, and refused to quit when we were down.”
Rock Island fell to 8-12-1, and 3-4 in conference play.
Panther right fielder David Thiem provided the game-winning hit in the seventh inning of Game 1 for UT, smacking a sharp single into left field to drive in Tyler Runkle and Caden Holesinger to cap the five-run comeback.
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Rock Island scored one run in the second inning of the opener, two runs in the third inning on a double by designated hitter Caleb Carroll, one more in the fifth inning, and two runs in the seventh on a home run over the left field fence by catcher Jesse Linch.
Rocky coach Jay Wayland was forced to pull starting pitcher Spencer Hasselroth after six innings because of a high pitch count, and UT took advantage. In addition to Thiem’s game-winning knock, the Panthers had RBIs by Runkle, Cole Stevens and Dalton Kottner in the final inning.
Noah Jansen, who relieved Kottner in the fourth inning, was the winning pitcher and beneficiary of the rally.
In the second game, UT scored five runs in the first two innings, added four more in a huge fourth inning, and capped its scoring in the fifth with Runkle's 3-run blast to left. But that wasn’t Runkle’s only offensive contributions. He had a perfect game at the plate, going 4-for-4 with the homer, a double to center field and two singles up the middle, knocking in seven of the Panthers’ 12 runs.
“It was great to see Tyler hit the ball with authority in both games of the doubleheader, going seven for eight on the day,” said Meyers. “He’s been struggling at the plate a bit lately, and his bat is a big part of our offense.”
Cole Stevens picked up the win for UT in the second game, relieved by David Thiem in the fifth inning for the save.
The Rocks refused to quit in the second game, scoring two runs in the second inning, a run in the third and fourth innings, and putting four runs on the board in the sixth on a two-run single by Joseph Dilulio, and a sacrifice fly by Austin Ford that knocked in Dilulio after Charlie Allison scored on a passed ball. Rocky's comeback fell short when UT’s Thiem closed out the seventh inning, getting a ground out to first base with two Rocky runners on the base-paths.
“Our guys kept working and fighting, stayed focused and just simply remained positive and motivated,” said Meyers. “Going forward, we need to build on the momentum, but the first game today showed our team that we are able to come back and take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to us.”