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The Panthers' Drake Kanallakan. BETHALTO – It's early in the Mississippi Valley Conference baseball season, so quite a bit of things can still happen. Civic Memorial knows that all too well, overcoming a slow start to gain a share of the title last season.

Still, the Eagles need to find a way, coach Gary Bruening believes, to bounce back from what Breuning called “a funk”; they left 12 runners on base in an extra-inning loss to Marquette Catholic the day before and had problems taking advantage of opportunities to score in their MVC opener Wednesday evening against Jersey.

The Panthers, coming off a tight 2-1 win over Triad in their league opener Tuesday, did take advantage of a couple of opportunities themselves in the late going to hand the Eagles a 4-0 loss at Bethalto Sports Complex. The Eagles fell to 7-10-1 overall and 0-1 in the league, while the Panthers went to 10-7 overall and 2-0 in the MVC.

“When you don't put any runs on the board, obviously, you're struggling at the plate,” Breuning said. “Last night, we left 12 guys on base; tonight, we didn't have that many base runners, but we did leave some opportunities out there; we had second and third a couple of times with two outs and we couldn't get the big hit.

“It's kind of what we're running into right now. We're in a funk, there's no doubt about it, and I'm not sure what we're going to do to get out of it. We need to come out and just put a couple of games back-to-back together and maybe get something rolling.”

Both CM and Jersey sent their aces to the mound for the game; the Panthers' Drake Kanallakan got the ball while the Eagles' Brandon Hampton took the mound. Kanallakan and Hampton both threw well, but Kanallakan shut the Eagles down whenever they mounted a threat.

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“He's been throwing well for us; when he goes out on the mound, we've got a chance to win,” said Panther coach Darren Perdun. “He threw strikes today, I think he had only one walk, kept the ball down and we had some pretty good defensive plays behind him. We kept them off-balance all day and didn't square him off a heck of a whole lot; Drake did pretty good today.”

Both the Eagles and Panthers had opportunities to break on top in the first four innings but timely defensive plays kept both teams off the board until the top of the fifth; Drew Sauerwin singled to open the inning for the Panthers and Jacob Witt drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Blake Wittman was called out, however, for stepping out of the batter's box attempting to bunt and Kanallakan hit an infield fly to second for the second out and it seemed as though Hampton was going to get out of the jam. Dylan Wilfong, though, stroked a double down the line in left to bring in Sauerwin and Witt to put Jersey out to a 2-0 lead, which they added to when James Holmes singled in Wilfong to put the Panthers up 3-0.

In the sixth, the Jersey lead went to 4-0 when Daniel Williams singled and went to second on a Collin Carey sacrifice bunt. One out later, Witt stroked a single that brought in Williams for the final Panther run.

Wilfong was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, a run scored and walked twice for the Panthers; Witt was 1-for-3 with a RBI and run scored, Holmes 1-for-4 with a RBI, Williams 1-for-3 with a run scored and Sauerwin 1-for-3 with a run scored. Jaxsen Helmkamp, Hampton, Corey Price, Derek Walker and Colin Hall each had hits for the Eagles.

Kanallakan went the distance for Jersey, giving up the five hits and striking out six; Hampton went 5.2 innings for CM, giving up four runs on seven hits while fanning two; Hall went 1.1 innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.

The Panthers host Pittsfield Thursday and travel to Hardin-Calhoun Friday; the Eagles travel to Roxana for a Saturday doubleheader, then go to Highland for an MVC game Monday.



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