Concord's big inning takes down Panthers

ELKHART — Concord coach Greg Hughes “flip-flopped” some of his personnel, and it worked out fittingly as the host Minutemen also flip-flopped an early deficit into an 11-5 Northern Lakes Conference baseball win over NorthWood on Wednesday evening.

Concord (11-5, 5-2), on its way to maintaining second place in the NLC, erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning to erase a 2-0 lead by the Panthers.

Noah Norwood’s scorching one-out, one-hop single that deflected off the glove of Nathan Shrock as the NorthWood second baseman ranged to his right drove in a pair of runs to knot the game at 2-2.

Mark Herman, batting in the ninth spot, added a two-out, two-run single two batters later to put the Minutemen ahead for good at 4-2.

Braeden Messenger then tripled home Herman, and Concord added still three more runs in the inning, two of them coming on Emanuel Rosa’s single.

“We felt like we were hitting the ball hard most of the time,” Hughes said of what preceded the eight-run outburst. “It just seemed to go right at people, but if you keep swinging well, good things are gonna happen. We got some to fall, got guys on base, and when we get guys on base, we’re pretty good at being aggressive, putting pressure on defenses and taking advantage of mistakes.”

To be sure, the Panthers (10-6, 4-4) did make some during the monster inning.

The frame began with a catcher’s interference call.

NorthWood starter Ty Stankovich (1-1) struck out the next hitter, but issued a pair of walks ahead of Norwood’s hit. The freebies were just getting started. Against multiple pitchers, two more walks and two hit batsmen occurred within the inning, as well as a wild pitch that scored a run.

“Free bases, free passes. It’s kind of been our story as of late,” Panther coach AJ Risedorph said. “Catcher’s interference, walks, errors. … Good teams are going to take advantage of those types of things.”

The Minutemen took advantage with, among other things, a tweaked batting order.

Herman, typically slotted second in the lineup, hit ninth for just the second time, having switched places with Andrew Kavanagh.

Coincidence or not, both players contributed mightily. Herman finished with three runs batted in, including a sacrifice fly, while Kavanagh singled home a run, was robbed of another hit, stole two bases and was hit by a pitch.

“They’ve both been struggling a bit,” Hughes assessed, “so I flip-flopped them and said, ‘Let’s see if you see different types of pitches and how it works for you guys.’”

Hughes also opted to start righty Alex Jimenez on the mound and bring lefty Jesus Esparza in from the bullpen, reversing the roles the two players occupied earlier in the league season.

Jimenez (1-2) notched the win, allowing three earned runs and four overall across five-plus innings, while Esparza was charged with one run while getting the final six outs. Jimenez struck out just two, but walked nobody.

Concord, true to the aggressiveness cited by Hughes, stole six bases in six tries, including three bags by Troy Deaton.

NorthWood scored in five of seven innings, though the Minutemen managed to limit the Panthers to a single run each time.

“Not at all upset with our offensive approach,” said Risedorph, whose club collected eight hits, including four doubles. “Our guys had great ABs, put the ball in play. It just comes down to us understanding we cannot give quality teams, really, anything, when you’re trying to compete for a conference championship or in the tournament.”

The Panthers’ chase for an NLC crown took a major hit by virtue of falling to 4-4 and into a tie for fourth place.

Concord still has an uphill fight, too. At 5-2, the Minutemen are 1.5 games behind Warsaw (7-1) and just a half-game ahead of Northridge (5-3) — plus they’ll be trying to come from a 9-6 deficit heading into the seventh inning when their suspended contest against Plymouth resumes Friday ahead of a regularly scheduled road meeting with the Pilgrims.

“We’re right there,” Hughes said of the league race, “but it all starts with pitching. If our pitchers keep throwing strikes, do their job, we’re a dangerous team, because we trust our defense, and even if we’re not hitting well, we can get guys on base and we trust what we do with guys on base.”





Ty Stankovich (L, 1-1), Dawson Kemp (4), Nathan Shrock (5), Landon Perry (6); Alex Jimenez (W, 1-2), Jesus Esparza (6).

NorthWood: Hits — Nate Dutkowski 2, Mason Warren 2, Perry 2. 2B — Mason Bogan, Dutkowski, Warren, Beau Patterson. RBI — Carson Mashack 2.

Concord: Hits — Emanuel Rosa 2, Noah Norwood 2. 3B — Braeden Messenger. 2B — Norwood, Garrett Stewart. RBI — Mark Herman 3, Rosa 2, Norwood 2. Runs — Andrew Kavanagh 2, Troy Deaton 2, Jordan Flores 2. SB — Deaton 3, Kavanagh 2.

Records: Concord 11-5 (5-2 NLC), NorthWood 10-6 (4-4).