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No.1 Plainflield South, "Puma", slip past Plainfield Central 6-5 in SPC East

Whenever Plainfield South and Plainfield Central meet on a baseball diamond, the game usually goes down to the last pitch. Tuesday's, Southwest Prairie East battle between the host Cougars and the visiting Wildcats was no different.

With the area No.1-ranked Cougars clinging to a 6-5 lead with two outs in the top of the seventh, Wildcats senior Jack Irwin stood on third base. On the the mound for the Cougars was senior right-hander Tylor "Puma" Phommachanhom.

Phommachanhom had relieved starting pitcher, senior Max Peters (4 IP, 5R, 4H, 1ER, 3K, 2BB), with a Wildcat on first base and no out in the top of the fifth.

Phommachanhom retired the Wildcats 1-2-3 in both the fifth and sixth innings, before Irvin (3-for-4, 2B) led off the top of the seventh with a single. A sac bunt from senior Spencer Ruch moved Irwin into scoring position. Irvin went to third on a ground out from Wildcat sophomore Josh Cunniff.

The hard-hitting Wildcat third baseman, Nate Buchan (1-for-4, RBI) quickly fell behind Phommachanhom 1-2.

Phommachanhom had introduced the Wildcats (7-6, 1-4) to his new pitch, the knuckleball, 15 of his first 40 pitches in the game were knuckleballs.

Pitch No. 41 for Puma was nothing but a hard-high, country fastball, that the hard-hitting Buchan could not catch-up with it for strike three and the final out of the game.

With the win, the Enterprise/Bugle Newspapers top-ranked Cougars, improve to 8-0 on the season and 5-0 in the SPC East. The hard-luck Wildcats fall to 6-6 overall and 1-4 in the SPC East.

This game resembled many of the games in the first three weeks of the area school's 2021 baseball season.

Many of the games have produced more unearned runs than earned runs, due to defensive miscues — errors.

The Wildcats scored four runs in the top of the first inning, three were unearned to jump out to a 4-0 lead.

Buchan drove home the first Wildcats run on a hard-hit single. After a pair of Cougar miscues gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead, sophomore Tanner Wagnon would make it 4-0 'Cats with a clutch, two-out, two run single.

Cougars senior centerfielder Jeremy McGuigan (1-for-2, HR, RBI, 2BB) hit Irwin's first pitch over the right field fence for his second home run of the season and pulled the Coug's to within 4-1.

"We were down 4-0 right away and we were down in the dugout," Plainfield South coach Phil Bodine said. "Jeremy's homer brought us back to life."

Cougar junior Matt Kelliher delivered a clutch, two-out, two run single to pull South within one 4-3 at the end of one inning.

"We all are hitting the ball so well that I had to make my contribution in the first inning," Kelliher said. "We are playing so well and want to keep the streak going, forever. To play for coach Bodine is a dream come true for all of us."

South tied the game at 4-4 on a pair of Wildcat miscues in the bottom of the second.

Plainfield Central junior lefty Josh Culbertson relieved Irvin with the game tied at 4-4 with no outs in the bottom of the second. Culbertson preserved the tie for the 'Cats through two innings at 4-4.

The Wildcats grabbed the lead, 5-4, on a RBI double from the Wildcats No. 9 hitter Brandon Leidolph in the top of the fourth. The run was unearned.

Cougars senior catcher Brennan Phillips knotted the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the fourth when he ripped a one-out double, to right scoring Phommachanhom (1-for-2, 2BB) who had walked.

"I was able to get a pitch up and go with it to right field to tie the game at 5-5," Phillips said. "We are hitting the ball well and whenever Puma comes into the game on the mound, the game is over for our opponent."

With the game tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth with one out, Cougar senior Cooper Schmid (2-for-2,BB) singled off Culbertson. Culbertson (3 2/3IP, 2R, 3H, 1ER, 5K, 5BB) picked up the second out of the inning on a strikeout, before walking McGuigan ending his outstanding relief performance.

Wildcats junior right hander Kenny Ospalik entered the game an induce a roller off the bat of Cougars senior Riley Jepsen. The ball was misplayed and Schmid raced home with the eventual game-winning run on the Wildcat miscue and the Cougars grabbed a 6-5 lead, they and Puma would not relinquish.

"We just have to make the routine play," Plainfield Central coach John Rosner said. "Josh Culbertson was outstanding for us tonight as he has been all season for us. We just have go home on Thursday and salvage the last game of the series."

The two teams close out their SPC East three-game series, back at Plainfield Central on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

"There is no easy out in our lineup," McGuigan said. "We are strong 1-thru-9 and feel we can keep this going.

What can you say about Puma?"

"I developed the knuckleball and I wanted to use it today," Phommachanhom said. "I showed it to coach Bodine and he said go with it. I am a holder of a black-belt in the martial arts. The discipline, hard work and mental focus one has to develop to be a success in the martial arts, develops tremendous self-confidence. That is who I am.

"I am at my best in pressure situations and I give credit for my success, to the martial arts."

"This was the first game this season that we did not make the routine plays," Bodine added. "We won and that is a credit to the kids that they were able to overcome their mistakes and still win. Brennan Phillips' RBI double to tie the game was big for us. Brennan has produced offensively for us and has has been outstanding for us behind the plate, as well

"Puma said he wanted to throw his knuckleball and I said go ahead. Fifteen of his 41 pitches were knuckleballs."


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