The road to a berth in the Region 1C tournament got a lot rockier for the Princeton Panthers Sunday.
The Panthers, with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Minny League playoffs, lost 3-2 to Rum River Sunday afternoon in Hinckley.
The Panthers also lost a player for their next playoff game Friday at home.
Sunday’s game ended with Kyle Norman being tagged out at the plate and after the game, Princeton manager Curt Wilson was told Norman will have to sit out a game for running into the Rum River catcher.
“It’s an automatic ejection,” Wilson said. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
The Panthers, 2-1 in the regular season against Rum River, scored two runs in the first inning but left 10 runners on base for the game.
Norman singled in the first and scored on a Jordan Neubauer double. Then Sam Solberg, who reached on an error and stole second, scored on a Mark Beattie sacrifice fly after a hit by Eric Ostmoe.
The Bandits tied the game in the third, scoring twice after two outs, and got an unearned run in the sixth, with two outs, that proved to be the winning run.
It was a game, Wilson said, where Rum River had some grounders get through the infield for hits, while Princeton hit some balls hard that were caught.
“We actually hit the ball pretty well,” he said, “but didn’t have a lot to show for it.”
The Panthers left runners on first and second in the sixth and then left a runner at third in the eighth.
Ryan Carling walked in the eighth, was sacrificed to second by Ostmoe and then moved to third on a deep fly to right by Beattie. The inning ended with the Rum River right fielder making a diving catch.
Norman singled with two outs in the ninth, stole second and then tried to score when Solberg’s grounder up the middle was bobbled.
The ball bounced up to the second baseman, instead of trickling into center, and the speedy Norman, after hesitating briefly at third, tried to score.
The throw was on target and he was tagged out, although some on the Princeton bench thought the ball had fallen out of the catcher’s glove.
That was a moot point, however, because Norman would have been out for running into the catcher.
The Panthers were without one of their leading hitters, Jesse Zimmer, and his availability for the next playoff game Friday is unknown, Wilson said Monday.
“It’ll be a different lineup, for sure, without Norman and maybe Zimmer,” Wilson said.
Next Panther playoff game at home Friday
The Panthers will play at home Friday in the double-elimination tournament against the winner of Wednesday’s Hinckley-Quamba game. The other game that night will find Mora playing Rum River at Princeton.
The tournament began Saturday in Hinckley with Rum River beating Nowthen, 5-2, and Mora beating Quamba, 12-2.
After the Princeton game Sunday, Mora rallied from a 7-0 deficit to beat Hinckley 10-7, and Quamba eliminated Nowthen 8-5.
The Region 1C tournament begins the following week at Hinckley with Sartell and Clear Lake having already qualified. The top two teams from the Eastern Minny playoffs will round out the field for the tournament.
Panther stat leaders
Joe Swanson leads the pitching stats with a 4-0 record, two shutouts and a 1.35 ERA. Josh Vickers is 4-3. The team ERA is 4.02.
Solberg leads in batting average at .429, Zimmer is hitting .386 and Neubauer .340. The team average is .273.
Carling (18) and Zimmer (16) lead in RBIs, while Norman (18) and Carling (13) have scored the most runs.
Zimmer leads in doubles (7) and is tied with Nick Mensen in the home run department (2). Neubauer has 5 doubles.
Norman (10) leads in stolen bases and Solberg has 5.
Zimmer (.462) leads in on-base percentage, Neubauer is at .429 and Ostmoe at .409.
PRINCETON (2 )
AB R H RBI
Norman,2b 5 1 2 0
Neubauer,c 4 0 3 1
Solberg,ss 5 1 0 0
Carling,cf 2 0 0 0
Ostmoe,dh 2 0 1 0
Ludwig,p 0 0 0 0
Beattie,rf 3 0 1 1
Bialucha,1b 3 0 1 0
Mensen,ph 1 0 0 0
Vickers,3b 4 0 0 0
Goldsmith,lf 3 0 0 0
Becklin,ph 1 0 0 0
33 2 8 2
RUM RIVER 32 3 7 3
IP H R ER BB SO Ludwig 9 7 3 2 1 9