It did not look good for a while for the Fort Zumwalt North Panthers. Down three runs through the first four innings, their baseball postseason looked like it would be over on Friday afternoon.
But Panthers coach Steve Siebert preaches patience and never quitting. Zumwalt North kept grinding, pushing, and eventually found a way.
Tied at 4-4 in the sixth, Malik Holts doubled home two runs in the sixth and third-seeded Zumwalt North added two more in the top of the seventh to capture an 8-4 victory over top-seed Francis Howell North in the Class 5, District 7 championship game at Francis Howell Central.
Fort Zumwalt North (21-6) will visit perennial power Francis Howell (25-11) in a Class 5 sectional on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“We preach throughout the season to just take things pitch and one at bat at a time and to be patient,” Siebert said. “The kids did a great job of doing that today and staying within themselves not trying to do too much.”
Francis Howell North (21-11) got a run in the first, one in the third, and two in the fourth to jump out to a seemingly safe 4-1 lead after four innings and North starter Jarrett O’Brien appeared to have things well in hand.
“They had us pretty much down it seemed like the whole game but our kids just wouldn’t let it get away,” Siebert said. “They deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there.”
The bats came to life for the Panthers in the fifth as Zumwalt North tagged O’Brien for three runs in the top of the frame tieing the score at 4-4.
Then in the top of the sixth, Holts came through with a big 2-run double that put the Panthers ahead to stay. Holts had a big day for Zumwalt North with two hits, two runs scored, and two RBI. “Malik’s double in the sixth was huge for us,” Siebert said. “He had a great day when we needed him to.”
O’Brien was chased in the sixth and Zumwalt North continued to hit as the Panthers 18-hit barrage produced two more runs in the top of the seventh for an 8-4 score.
“Once we started scoring in the fifth, the runs kept coming and the bats kept hitting just like we did when we came from behind to beat (Zumwalt) South for the conference championship a week ago,” Siebert said. “We’ve done that a few games this year. These kids never feel like they are out of a game.”
Travis Dames, D.J. Schmidt, and Connor Zangriles all went 3 for 4 at the plate. Nick Bohannan was 2 for 4 with a run scored.
Jake Viehmann and Jordan Throgmorton led Howell North with three hits each. Viehmann also scored three runs.
Zumwalt North’s Dylan Elledge pitched five innings to get the win. Garrett Darrah threw two scoreless inning of relief to notch the save.
O’Brien was tagged with the loss.