A five-run sixth inning highlighted by a bases-clearing double to left by shortstop T.J. Miller led to St. Mary's picking up its biggest win of the season Tuesday.
One week after suffering an 11-2 road loss to Sioux Central, the Panthers baseball team returned the favor in Storm Lake, beating the Rebels 7-6 in eight innings.
"We finally proved we can play with the top teams in the conference when we play to our potential," said Panthers coach Ryan Berg. "With the exception of one bad inning we played excellent baseball tonight. Our defense picked us up and threw out several runners trying to take an extra base and we turned a huge double play in the eighth inning. We also had some very timely hitting from all parts of the order to make our comeback."
St. Mary's scored first but the Rebels answered with five runs in the second and led 6-1 going into the bottom of the sixth.
Alec Kestel led off the difference-making sixth by reaching on an error for the Panthers. After two strikeouts, Ryan Drey walked and Nolan Luhmann singled to score Kestel.
Connor Richardson then walked and Brendan Smith reached on an error, allowing Drey to score and keeping the bases loaded.
That's when Miller cleared the bases with his double that knotted things at 8-up.
After neither teams scored in the seventh and Sioux Central came up empty in the top of eight, Miller got aboard in the bottom half of that frame with a two-out walk. He then stole second and scored the winning run on Jon Foell's blast to the fence in center field.
The Rebels, who had 10-runned Newell-Fonda just one night earlier in the wacky Northwest Conference, out-hit SLSM 9-8 but made four errors while the Panthers committed three.
Not only did Foell provide the game-winning hit, he also recorded the pitching victory, with no runs, one hit, one strikeout and no walks in two innings.
Miller and Justin Cullen threw the other two innings, with one earned run apiece. Miller allowed four hits, struck out four and walked two in four innings on the hill, while Cullen gave up five hits, struck out one and walked none in two innings of relief.
Foell had two doubles, while Miller, Kestel, Michael Ivey, Evan Smith, Luhmann and Richardson all had a hit.
Miller had three RBIs, while Foell, Kestel and Luhmann all had one.
One night later in Storm Lake, Drey pitched his best game of the year as the Panthers (4-5 NWC) improved to 7-12 with a 9-1 victory over Battle Creek-Ida Grove.
It was St. Mary's fourth win in its last five tries.
In seven innings of work, Drey allowed one earned run and six hits while fanning four batters and walking none.
The Panthers cranked seven hits. Ivey was 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the sixth, and Miller hit and RBI single in the fourth.
Kestel hit a double, and in the sixth, Evan Smith ripped off an RBI single.
Drey and Luhmann hit singles as well.