The varsity Panther baseball team welcomed the spring season with a successful weekend on the diamond in the 2016 Rawlings Select Classic tournament held in Cartersville, Georgia.
O’Fallon fought off the Punxsutawney Chucks and the Ralston Valley Mustangs in the first two rounds of play to make their way into the semifinal round. Looking to win their way into the championship match, the Panthers squared off with the South Dade Buccaneers from Florida.
The Buccaneers produced early offense in the top of the first inning and held onto a four run lead until outfielder Bradley Harrison cracked a line drive double into centerfield. Dillon Weiss and Josh Gibson both scored on Harrison’s two run RBI and cut the Buccaneers lead in half. In the bottom of the fourth inning Bradley Snyder evening the game up at 4-4 on a single into centerfield that scored both Jared Dalonzo and Weiss.
Tied at 4-4, the Buccaneers found offense late in the game. The South Dade High team added two runs in the top of the fifth and sixth inning. O’Fallon cut the lead down to two runs thanks to a triple into right field by Gibson that scored Weiss. Snyder followed Gibson’s triple with a sacrifice fly to bring the game to an 8-6 score in the top of the seventh inning. The Buccaneer bats warmed up again in the final inning of play, making way for a five run inning. Unable to neutralize, the Panthers fell in the semifinal match 13-6. South Dade would go on to win the Rawlings Select Classic.
Despite the defeat to South Dade in Georgia marking the first tally in the loss column for OTHS this season, head Coach Jason Portz is pleased with his team’s performance.
“It was a very successful trip for us,” said Portz. “We finished in the top four out of twenty teams and played very well. I feel like our team really came together as a group. The young kids really stepped up to the level of competition we were up against. I think it was most certainly the best performance we have had on our spring trip in the fourteen years I have coached at O’Fallon.”
Several Panthers had standout performances at the Rawlings Classic including senior Camden Bauer who threw a five inning no hitter against Athens High School in the final game of the trip. In his stellar outing, Bauer recorded one strike out, 11 first pitch strikes, and two RBIs at the plate. O’Fallon won the game with a dominant 13-0 shutout.
Bauer along with fellow teammates Nathan Martin, Josh Gibson, Bradley Snyder, Chase Hackstadt, Bradley Harrison, Jordan Richardson, Dillon Weiss, Jared Dalonzo, and Logan Boente were all named to the Rawlings Classic All-Tournament team.
“It was a great opportunity for us to become closer as teammates both on and off the field. I’m really excited to see what this season has in store,” said junior Dominic Smiley.
With their three wins over the weekend, the Panthers improved their overall season record to 7-1. This week OTHS will Alton on Tuesday and Collinsville on Thursday. This weekend the Panthers will compete in and host a round-robin tournament that includes several teams from up state. O’Fallon’s first action in the round-robin will take place on Friday against Naperville Central High School.
After adding a few more wins under their belt, Portz wants his team to keep looking forward and not get too comfortable.
“We can’t focus too much on the past but, instead just build upon it. If we walk around with our chest pumped high and get to high on ourselves someone in the Southwestern Conference will humble us fast. We could have won the game against South Dade but, the key is that we bounced right back in the next game. We just want our team to get better day in and day out,” said Portz.