PROPHETSTOWN, Ill. — Owen McConnell and his Erie/Prophetstown Panthers had not stepped onto their baseball diamond all season, but they entered in grand fashion.
McConnell, who hit cleanup for the Panthers, hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning to put his team in front early by four runs, and that’s how much the Panthers won by, 11-7.
Cody Huff was the starting pitcher for Fulton and didn’t get the outing he sought.
The Panthers led off its offensive stand with a single from second baseman Austin Meadows. Then, Ethan Howard took two pitches and hit a double to center field, where the ball carried all the way to the wall. Jordan Chandler forced a five-pitch walk.
Then, it was McConnell’s turn to launch his grand slam off the Prophet Shop building.
Huff retired the next three batters, but the Steamers were already against the wall in their Three Rivers opener.
Fulton’s starting pitcher saw trouble again in the second inning, but the Panthers scored just once on a fielder’s choice that scored Grady Todd.
The Steamers then drew first blood in the third inning by scoring three runs. Seth Sanderson led off by being patient at the plate by drawing a walk. Tyler Sweenie and Ethan Jones each singled, moving Sanderson from first base to third.
No. 5 hitter Jake Vanzuiden singled to shallow center that brought in Sanderson before Paul Velasco hit a two-run double to right-center. Vanzuiden later scored on a Trey Simmons bloop single to right field.
Chandler returned to hit a two-run triple in the fourth inning to extend the Panthers’ lead. E/P added three more runs in the fifth inning as insurance.
Seth Sanderson threw the latter two innings for the Steamers. In those six outs, Sanderson threw 22 strikes out of his 28 total, and threw a first-pitch strike to every batter he faced.