Think the Panthers are ready for the hurdles they’ll face in a division-less summer baseball postseason bracket later this month?
Bring it on.
Ryan Schieble pitched a seven-inning gem, Zac Cain knocked in a run and the Panthers held on for a 1-0 win against a talent-laden Sheboygan Legion lineup in a regular-season finale on Monday that should give Plymouth a running start into the single-division WIAA playoffs later this week.
“He has three pitches that are valuable for him, but tonight he was able to put ’em into places where he wanted to,” Plymouth coach Butch Cain said of his senior starter on the mound, who didn’t surrender a hit through the first three innings and finished with just three hits on the night.
“He was able to hit corner to corner, up and down,” he said.
Tyler Zietz was solid through six innings on Sheboygan’s mound, giving up just four hits and a run to help anchor Legion’s taut defense. He nearly kept Plymouth scoreless through the game, but timely hitting in the bottom of the third inning helped give the Panthers the single-run advantage they needed to survive.
Zietz struck out designated hitter Cole Karcewski to lead off the inning, and got Justin Picard to hit into a groundout. But with those two outs on the board, Clay Henning popped a double, and Zac Cain later notched a key single to bring him home from second base.
That was all the offense Plymouth needed; the Panthers’ defense took care of the rest. Schieble surrendered hits in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but kept Sheboygan — considered one of the best Triple-A Legion teams in the state — scoreless through all seven innings to earn the shutout. Sheboygan put runners in scoring position four times, but never got a runner over home plate.
“We knew we had a game plan in mind and we were going to throw strikes, play defense and get some timely hitting and it worked out that way,” Butch Cain said. “Take nothing away from Sheboygan Legion. They are a great team. We feel we have a very solid team ourselves, and things worked out on our side tonight.”
Henning finished with two hits in the Panthers’ lead-off spot, and Cain finished with one hit — the key RBI single in the third inning. Luke Hojnacki also finished with a hit for Plymouth.
Carter Amundsen led Sheboygan’s offense with two hits, and Riley O’Connor got Sheboygan’s other hit — a fly ball into left field in the top of the fifth.
Sheboygan had won three straight games coming into Monday’s contest, including a doubleheader sweep on Sunday against Neenah and a 10-2 rout the day before against Watertown.
The team, comprised of players from Sheboygan North and Sheboygan South, had been ranked among the top 10 Triple-A Legion teams in the state late last month. The team had been bumped from the top 10 by Sunday. The team now holds an 18-10 overall record with a few weeks remaining on its regular season calendar.
Plymouth caps its regular season with a 23-3-1 overall record — the Panthers battled to a rare tie last week against New Holstein in a game called off early because of darkness — and now heads into a postseason that could pit the team against considerably larger schools. Plymouth earned a No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs, and is expected to play either Campbellsport or Oostburg on Friday.
“I guess our approach is you never can look at the size of a school,” Butch Cain said. “We have to go into a state tournament where some schools are two, and maybe two-and-a-half times, as large as our school. … No matter who it is, you still got to come in and play and do the little things.”