Panthers’ Historic Season Ends Against Defending Champions

Quinn Ledger used his bat, atheticism and speed to help power Pekin's late rally against Newman Catholic at the State baseball tournament on July 26. The Panthers finished just shy with an 8-7 loss.

Des Moines – No other team in the history of Pekin baseball had accomplished the feat, extending their postseason to play the elite teams of their class. Having played the role of underdog, the Panthers marched into the State baseball tournament with confidence and optimism. Their magical run nearly continued, ultimately coming up short in an 8-7 loss when they played defending-champion Newman Catholic on July 26 at Principal Park.

Pekin utilized top-notch coaching, led by Pie Reighard, Aaron Deutsch, and Cole Reighard, in addition to a close-knit group of seniors, to help them make it somewhere they hadn’t been before. Those seniors contributed several years to the program, ending on top despite taking a loss. Caleb Comstock, Tanner Bainbridge, and Ledger (three of the four seniors on the roster) had a special moment late in the game. With three outs left to determine whether their State appearance would end early or have a chance at advancing, the Panthers began to rally.

Following a groundout by Brady Latcham, Comstock made it aboard with a base knock. Chase Stansberry flew out, and just like that, Pekin was down to their final out of the season. Bainbridge remained patient at the plate, drawing a walk, and Ledger joined him after taking a pitch to the back. Bases loaded, wind blowing out to center field, a comeback seemed evident. Kennan Winn stepped into the batter’s box and delivered one of his biggest hits of the year, lacing a shot just over the center fielders’ glove to the wall. A few feet higher and Winn could’ve hit a minor-league dinger over the wall and tied the game. Nonetheless, his hit cleared the bases and cut the deficit to one.

Pekin’s fourth and final senior had his chance to shine as well. Tugg Hill stepped up, hoping to drive Winn in from second or at least keep the game alive. Hill was inserted late into the game to take over in left field and had only gotten one at-bat prior to the seventh. Looking to avenge striking out the first time around, Hill went down swinging, as did Pekin’s State title chances. 

The way the game was going early on wouldn’t have suggested Pekin had a chance, but they continued to claw back and got as close to advancing as possible, without getting the win.

 

To read the full recap, including comments from Bainbridge, Ledger and coach Reighard, pick up this weeks' News Review.