MT. PLEASANT — It was wild, crazy, unpredictable and a little bit controversial Thursday at the Mapleleaf Athletic Complex baseball fields. The Mt. Pleasant baseball had to deal with the 90-degree heat, a pandemic, a couple of firework shows on and off the field and the first-place Ft. Madison Bloodhounds, but the Panthers survived 4-1 in the first game and 8-5 in the second game to stay in the Southeast Conference race.
The antics began hours before the game when an unexpected downpour in Ft. Madison forced the baseball and softball doubleheaders to be played on Mt. Pleasant’s home field. Mt. Pleasant represented the away team on their home field, but that wasn’t even the tip of the ice berg in a wacky two-game set.
Game 1 went by without error for the most part. Nik Coble was dominant on the mound for the Panthers and he kept Mt. Pleasant in the game despite a troublesome start for the offense.
Rylan Seberg knocked in the first run of the game in the bottom of the third frame to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead, which they would hold until only two innings remained.
In the sixth inning, Seberg scored on a frenetic sacrifice fly by Clayton Lowery. Seberg was on second base when Lowery’s deep fly ball was caught by a diving Tate Johnson in center field. The Bloodhound sophomore chucked the ball to the cutoff man, but the speedy Seberg wasn’t happy with just one base on the tag up, and took off for home, scoring just in the nick of time, much to the dismay of the Ft. Madison faithful, who argued that Seberg never tagged. After a lengthy dispute, Mt. Pleasant was awarded the run and it was 2-0 Panthers.
Ft. Madison got one back in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 2-1, but the Panther offense had more to give, helped out by some shaky Bloodhound defense. With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, relief pitcher Corbin Broeker grounded the ball to third. The throw to first squirted past the first baseman and two runs scored on the error to make it 4-1, where it would stay after the Hounds went quietly in their half of the seventh.
After a fantastic start by Jaxon Hoyle in Game 2, and some more clutch relief pitching from Broeker, the Mt. Pleasant offense busted out in the sixth. The Panthers led 3-1 going into the final two innings after an RBI double by Broeker and a sacrifice fly by Seberg in the third, and a Jack Johnson RBI single in the fourth. They’d add four more to that total with their biggest inning of the night.
Chase Williamson started the scoring off with a two-RBI double and scored on a double steal. Clayton Lowery followed that with an RBI double, but was then called out on the next batter after a controversial call was made on a foul ball.
On a foul down the line, Lowery ended up at home plate. He ran past first base to get back to second, but was called out for not tagging third and retreating back the way he came around the bases. The play confused and upset many of the Mt. Pleasant players, fans and coaches, but the call stood and it was 7-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning.
Ft. Madison rallied in the bottom of the sixth with three runs of their own, but it could have been more. After seemingly cutting the lead to 7-5 on an RBI hit, the Panthers appealed to home plate and it was ruled the Ft. Madison runner never touched home. That out stifled the Bloodhound momentum and the lead stayed at 7-1 going into the final inning.
Mt. Pleasant tacked on one final run in the seventh on an RBI single by Cooper Keldgord. Ft. Madison scored in the bottom half, and had the tying run at the plate, but Broeker wiggled out of the jam and the Panthers took home two huge conference victories, which put them in a tie with Ft. Madison for second and just one-loss behind Burlington, who now leads the SEC.
“It gives us a chance,” said coach Brent Broeker. “We still have to take care of business on Monday and we need a little help from Ft. Madison and Burlington, so we’ll see what shakes out come Monday.”
Broeker also spoke to his team’s resilience in staying strong despite an emotionally unstable contest.
“There were some new rules that I guess I wasn’t aware of, that I’m still not aware of, but I thought our kids did a good job of letting me deal with the umpires,” Broeker said. “They didn’t get involved in it. They just kept playing like they should, and I was very proud of the kids for that.”
Mt. Pleasant, now 8-5 overall and 6-2 in league play, will host Washington on Monday. The Demons will come into the game riding a four-game SEC winning streak. Ft. Madison and Burlington will play on Monday as well, and Burlington still has one makeup doubleheader against Fairfield at the end of next week.