Andrew Zenner produces 10 RBIs for PBL baseball in 17-7 Class 2A regional semifinal win over Iroquois West

GILMAN -- A mighty wind worked to the benefit of a Paxton-Buckley-Loda baseball player whom head coach Rick Johnson calls "the big cat."
 
With wind gusts blowing toward the right-field fence at more than 30 miles per hour on Wednesday at Mann Park in Gilman, PBL senior Andrew Zenner sent three hits past that fence for home runs -- including two grand slams -- to lead the Panthers to a 17-7 five-inning victory over Iroquois West in the IHSA Class 2A regional semifinals.
 
“I'd say the wind probably had a big factor in it, for sure," Zenner said. "I just let the ball travel today, and the wind helped me out there.”
 
Zenner finished the game hitting 4-for-4 with 10 RBIs. According to the IHSA's website, that would put Zenner in an 11-way tie for sixth on the state's all-time list for single-game RBIs, and his three homers would put him in a tie for 13th place.
 
“That's a day. He'll remember this for a long time," Johnson said.
 
With the win over Iroquois West, PBL (28-3) will play in a regional championship game for the fourth consecutive year.
 
“What else can you say? We live to see another day — that's what it's all about this time of the year, whether you win by one run or by 10," Johnson said. 
 
The top-seeded Panthers are scheduled to play at noon Saturday against either No. 4-seed Bismarck-Henning or eighth-seeded Clifton Central -- the Blue Devils and Comets are scheduled to play in the regional semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
 
“We've played both teams, so we know what they have," Zenner said. "It should be a good game Saturday.”
 
Iroquois West (11-14) scored a run in the top of the first inning due thanks in part to two errors by the PBL defense before Panthers catcher Jaxson Coplea threw to second baseman Keaton Krumwiede to catch IW's Alexis Ramirez trying to steal second base.
 
The Panthers tallied six runs in the bottom of the first to take a 6-1 lead.
 
Dalton Coplea drew a leadoff walk, Cole Eshleman singled on a line drive to left field and Cooper Johnson walked to load the bases before Zenner hit his first grand slam.
 
Jaxson Coplea then singled with one out and stole second base before Mason Ecker -- who finished the game hitting 3-for-3 -- hit a line-drive RBI single to center field. In the next at-bat, Keaton Krumwiede hit a double to center field to send Ecker across home plate.
 
Iroquois West narrowed its deficit to 6-2 in the top of the second inning as Tony Geiczewski hit a leadoff single to center field and advanced to second base on a passed ball before Cole Stone doubled on a fly ball to center field to send Geiczewski across home plate. Roberto Valdez lined out to the pitcher Cooper Johnson to end the inning.
 
In the bottom of the second inning, Zenner sent a solo home run past the right-field fence to extend PBL's lead to 7-2.
 
The Raiders then cut their deficit to 7-6 with a four-run top of the third inning.
 
Clayton Thorne singled to left field to lead off and stole second base before Austin Saathoff hit a one-out single to center field to send Thorne home. 
 
Alexis Ramirez then reached base on an error and Will Clark was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. Corey Schunke doubled to right field to send three runs across home plate.
 
After the three-RBI hit by Schunke, Cooper Johnson was relieved on the mound by Krumwiede. Johnson would be credited with the win as he allowed six runs -- two earned -- on five hits and no walked and struck out four batters through 2 2/3 innings pitched.
 
With Schunke on third base for a potential tying run, Stone flied out to PBL right fielder Kaleb Denault to end the inning.
 
The Panthers extended their lead to 13-6 with six runs in the bottom of the third inning.
 
Ecker hit a one-out single to left field before stealing second base. Dalton Coplea reached base on an error as Ecker crossed home plate.
 
Eshleman and Cooper Johnson each walked to load the bases before Zenner hit his second grand slam. 
 
In the next at-bat, Denault -- who went 2-for-4 for the game -- hit a solo home run past the right-field fence.
 
The Panthers would finish the game hitting four home runs as Eshleman -- who finished the game hitting 2-for-3 -- would send a two-run homer past the right-field fence in the fourth inning.
 
“(Denault and Eshleman) both hit the ball hard as well, but the ball traveled in the wind on those, for sure," Zenner said. "You just have to take advantage of it when it's there.”  
 
Iroquois West scored a run in the top of the fourth inning as Roberto Valdez doubled to right field, Thorne singled to right field and Eli Fink walked to load the bases before Saathoff singled on a pop fly to left field to send Valdez home.
 
Ramirez singled on a pop fly to right field to put runners on first and second base, but Gieczewski struck out swinging and Clark grounded out to the pitcher Krumwiede.
 
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Tyler Adkins hit a leadoff single to center field for PBL and Ecker singled on a pop fly to left field before Krumwiede -- who finished the game hitting 2-for-3 -- hit an RBI single to center field.
 
After Eshleman hit his two-run homer to send Ecker and Krumwiede and himself home, Cooper Johnson singled on a pop fly to right field before Zenner hit a single to center field to send Johnson across home plate for his 10th RBI -- and to extend PBL's lead to 17-7.
 
The bottom of the fifth inning was the only one in which the PBL defense produced a shutout -- a shutout that resulted in the Panthers ending the game via 10-run rule.
 
After Schunke hit a leadoff single to left field and stole second base, Krumwiede struck Stone out swinging. In the next at-bat, Panthers second baseman Cooper Johnson made a diving catch on a Valdez line drive before doubling off Schunke to end the game.
 
“It was big to get out of that last inning," Zenner said. "This is a rough day to play in. It was good to get it done.”
 
Krumwiede's relief effort on the mound resulted in two strikeouts, one walk and one earned run on five hits through 2 1/3 innings pitched.
 
“That was pretty awesome to get it done and get out of here," Rick Johnson said.
 
PBL 17, Iroquois West 7
IW 114    10     -- 7    10    1
PBL 616    4x     -- 17  16    3
W -- Cooper Johnson, 2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 4 K, 0 BB. L -- Clark, IP, 5 H, 6 ER, K, 3 BB. 
Iroquois West (11-14) -- Thorne 2-3, R. Fink R. Saathoff 2-3, 2 RBIs, R. Ramirez 1-3, R. Gielczewski 1-3, R. Clark R. Schunke 2-3, 2B, 3 RBIs. Stone 1-3, 2B, RBI. Valdez 1-3, 2B, R. 
PBL (28-3) -- Dalton Coplea 3 R, 2 BB. Cole Eshleman 2-3, 2 RBIs, 3 R. Cooper Johnson 1-2, 3 R, 2 BB. Andrew Zenner 4-4, 3 HR (2 GS), 10 RBIs, 3 R. Kaleb Denault 2-4, RBI, R. Jaxson Coplea 1-3, R. Tyler Adkins 1-3. Luke Fitton RBI, R. Mason Ecker 3-3, RBI, 2 R. Keaton Krumwiede 2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs. 
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports

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