Panthers give top seed Conrad a battle but fall in baseball tourney

WILMINGTON — Polytech High didn’t just hang with the top overall seed, the Panthers were in the lead.

But Polytech couldn’t find a way to record six more outs.

The Panthers fell in their second game of the day, 10-4 on Saturday to Conrad in the DIAA baseball state tournament. The 17th-seeded Panthers needed extra innings earlier on Saturday to down Delmar before leading Conrad for five and a half innings.

“We almost did it,” said Polytech coach George Eilers. “We almost did what a lot of people didn’t think was going to happen. We were six outs away. I’m proud of these guys, that’s all I can say. It hurts and I know they’re hurting but hopefully they can look back at what we’ve done and I hope they have good memories of this year.”

Conrad scored all 10 of its runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Red Wolves advanced to play No. 8 seed Cape Henlopen on Tuesday.

Polytech started junior Louis Whitaker against Conrad. Whitaker needed to pitch the final two innings of the first game of the new doubleheader format as he picked up the extra-inning win in relief as Polytech scored five runs in the eighth for a 7-2 victory over Delmar.

It meant Whitaker would be limited against Conrad due to pitch count restrictions.

Whitaker made it into the fifth inning when he had to be pulled with two outs and a runner on. He had kept Conrad scoreless that far and held the Red Wolves to just three hits.

“He was able to throw 65 in the second game and he did that,” Eilers said. “It was unfortunate (to take him out), but Lou showed he can compete with one of the best teams.”

Polytech was able to escape the fifth until it ran out of gas in the sixth.

Conrad’s leadoff man reached on an infield hit before five consecutive walks made it a 3-1 game. The Panthers went through three different pitchers and allowed 10 runs in the inning on seven walks and six hits.

Polytech attempted to mount a rally in the top of the seventh and did score three runs on a RBI-single by Brent Buckson before two more came home on a throwing error, but the hole was too big.

Polytech led most of the game behind Miguel Rivera’s triple in the first inning which allowed him to score on a sacrifice fly by Brendan Davis.

Davis had a key hit in the Delmar game — a three-RBI double in extra innings while Rivera added a two-RBI single. Polytech’s ace Joey Haass threw six innings against Delmar, making him ineligble to pitch in the second contest of the doubleheader per pitch count rules.

Carter Chasanov also had a RBI against Delmar while Cole Garey doubled.

Chasanov, Garey, Haass and Rivera are just some of the seniors who Eilers is sad to see go.

“That’s why you coach,” Eilers said. “To be able to coach kids like that. We developed great relationships with them and hopefully with the younger guys, we can develop those relationships when they can come back next year. We’re looking forward to that.”

“This doubleheader format, we knew it was going to be tough and it proved to be tough,” Eilers added. “But these guys should look back with a lot of positives on this. I’m proud of my guys.”

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