It was 11:46 p.m. – over six hours beyond the scheduled start time – when a strikeout delivered by Pella High’s Jacob Gleason finally ended Friday night’s Little Hawkeye Conference varsity baseball games between Knoxville and the Little Dutch; with Pella coming back in the nightcap with a 12-3 win after the Panthers’ thrilling 5-4 ten-inning win in the opener. Seventeen combined innings of baseball will make any doubleheader eat up the evening hours, but a late afternoon thunderstorm delayed the start by over an hour, setting the stage for another marathon night for an already exhausted Panther squad.
Neither team seemed willing to concede any ground in game one; reaching a 3-3 tie after seven innings – followed by two scoreless frames – before a bases-loaded walk allowed the Panthers to overtake the Little Dutch for the walk-off win.
“They really wanted that one, and we kind of put all our cards on the table for that one, because our wins have been so few and far between,” said Knoxville head coach Joel Johnson. “We just don’t have that many guns to play with. We don’t have guys that throw like we saw tonight from Pella – we don’t have those kind of arms – so we’re just trying to throw it into a big target and hopefully it’ll fall in once in awhile. But our guys have really battled hard, and they’ve learned so much.”
The Panthers’ tandem of Kevin Woodhouse and Bryce Zoutte combined to allow eight hits and three walks, while striking out four batters in the no-decision. Tony Salato scored the game-tying run and finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI. Pella High got nine innings from starter Schyler Kane, who allowed six hits and just one walk in that span, while fanning seven Knoxville batters. Kane helped himself at the dish as well, finishing 2-for-5 with an RBI in the loss.
Game two was an entirely different monster, as eight contests in five days fully set in on the Panthers in the nine-run loss. Knoxville committed eight errors in the field, while a woefully overworked pitching staff was forced to make three changes over the course of the seven innings. Pella, meanwhile, cranked out a dozen hits and Jacob Gleason dominated on the mound.
“The boys kept the intensity up, which was good to see. [We] came out in the second game and really played well,” said Little Dutch head coach Al Vasher. “We actually played really well in the first game; you know, ten innings, no errors, struck out four times – so that was good – put the ball in play… We kind of hit it all over the yard, [but] we just couldn’t seem to chain the hits together; which is kind of the story of our season.”
Gleason went the distance, allowing five hits and five walks, and striking out 15 batters for the win. He also led the Little Dutch offense, going 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Knoxville’s Salato was again the top batter for the Panthers, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
The Panther’s arduous week ends with the team at 7-22 overall and 5-13 in the Little Hawkeye Conference. They’ll get some well-overdue rest before returning to action in the latter part of next week. Following the split, the Pella High baseball team is 18-10 overall and finishes the league slate at 10-8. They’ll return to the diamond Tuesday at Washington.