After a seventh-inning run denied the United Township baseball squad a potential sweep of Rock Island in last Saturday's Western Big 6 Conference opening doubleheader, the Panthers shook it off and got back to work Tuesday afternoon.
Facing a Moline club that tallied 31 runs in its own twinbill split with Alleman this past weekend, UT senior pitcher Davin Thiem quieted the Maroons' bats with a two-hit, eight-strikeout gem and benefited from some early offense as the Panthers prevailed 8-2 at the UTHS diamond in East Moline.
Thiem (2-1) gave up just three walks and two singles — the first by Shawn Lewis in the top of the second inning, the other by Ryne Schimmel in the sixth — and retired nine in a row at one point as he took a shutout into the top of the sixth.
He benefitted from some early offensive outbursts that led to the hosts plating three runs in both the first and third innings. Those runs were more than enough to help the Panthers (4-4-1) move to 2-1 in Big 6 play.
"I definitely pitch better with the lead; it gives me way more confidence out there on the mound," said Thiem. "We keep adding runs, and I stay in the same groove for the whole game. When you get runs scored for you, that's the greatest thing. You feel less pressure out there on the mound."
The Maroons (7-8, 1-2 WB6) tried to put some pressure on in the top of the sixth. After Justin Grigsby walked and Schimmel singled to open the inning, a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position before Hunter Warren's RBI groundout scored Grigsby to end Thiem's shutout bid.
A short time later, Schimmel came in on a balk to get Moline back within striking distance at 6-2.
"I was kind of mad that those runs scored, but I didn't let it get to me," Thiem said. "I just had to go out there and finish the game."
As it turned out, United Township got those runs back in the home half of the sixth, courtesy of a two-run double by Ethan Harrison.
"On that last pitch, I was cutting it; I had two strikes on me and I had to protect the plate," Harrison said of his at-bat against Grigsby, who entered the game in the sixth. "He kept trying to work the outside corner, so I crowded the plate more and went 'oppo' (to the opposite field)."
For Moline, Tuesday's loss continued a recent downward trend as the Maroons lost for the sixth time in their last seven games.
"We're just not playing good baseball now. We've got to be more competitive," said Moline coach Craig Schimmel. "We do some good things, but we've had a tough time putting all three phases of the game together. We preach all year about trying to give ourselves a chance in our last at-bats, and we get two runs, but then we gave them back.
"Tip your cap to Thiem; he threw a good game. He was in the strike zone and had command of it all game. He went out with some confidence, and you could tell he was ready to go. That's what you expect from a four-year varsity player."
The Panthers struck quickly when Harrison reached on an error, stole second and scored on Davian Vallejo's single. Vallejo later scored on a wild pitch, and Isaac Graf's RBI groundout scored Landon Farnsworth for a 3-0 UT lead.
In the last of the third, an RBI double by Reid Murphy (2-for-3) and Graf's RBI single fueled another outburst that put the hosts up 6-0.
"This was a good game for us," said UT coach Mike Meyers. "We came out and got on the board early, and we tried to keep it going from there. Davin came out and had some really good stuff. It was a good job by all today."