Panthers Two Wins Away from First World Series Title after Taking both Games at Magic Park
The 2021 ORWBL World Series kicked off on Sunday as the National League Champion Granger Panthers traveled to Magic Park in LaPorte to take on the 4x defending World Series champion Maple City Magic out of the American League. This is the second time that these two franchises have met up in the World Series as they faced off back in 2018 as Maple City swept the series four games to none to capture their 2nd consecutive title.
With the wind blowing out at Magic Park, both of these games figured to be pretty high scoring as the ball was really flying out of the park. The Panthers got off to an early lead in Game 1 as they scored a pair of runs in the top of the first to jump out front. Granger's Griffin Smith held the Magic scoreless in the bottom of the inning as the Panthers were able to get off to a good start which was key.
After winning the first inning Granger struck right back for four more runs in the 2nd and five more runs in the 3rd, while holding Maple City to just one run in each inning. After outscoring the Magic by seven runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings, the Granger bench had erupted as they had overtaken Magic Park. The Panthers were playing with a lot of energy and they just didn't stop.
The Panthers plated four more runs in the 4th inning as they jumped out to a 15-2 lead, sending Magic fans into shock. Maple City would put together their best inning of the day in the bottom half of the 4th, scoring five runs to cut the deficit to eight runs.
The Panthers had the entire Magic pitching staff looking for answers as the Granger hitters were patient at the plate, and when they got their pitch they would normally send the ball over the fence as this squad was hitting on all cylinders. Maple City cycled through Wes Ellis, Caleb Jonkman, and Zach Liberatore and when it seemed like one of them was settling in, the Panthers would find a way to get to him.
Both teams added two more runs in the 5th inning as that would be all of the scoring for Game 1 as both teams were held scoreless in the 6th inning as the Granger Panthers took Game 1 by the score of 17-9. Griffin Smith finished as the winning pitcher as he pitched all 6 innings while allowing only 9 runs with very favorable hitting conditions.
Smith also had a phenomenal game at the plate as well as he finished 5/7 with 4 HR, 5 Runs, and 6 RBI. Austin Williams also came to play as he went 5/7 with 4 HR, 5 R, and 5 RBI. Seth Campbell kicked off the World Series in a positive way as he finished 3/7 with 3 HR, 3 Runs, and 3 RBI. Granger's other two starters Alex Zarazee and Daivyn Davis each added a Home Run as well.
For Maple City, Caleb Jonkman did what he could as he went 4/6 with 3 HR, 3 Runs, and 3 RBI. Drew Luther also played well as he went 3/6 with 2 HR. Playing in his first World Series games since 2017, Zach Liberatore returned to the lineup by going 2/4 with 2 HR.
Game 2 of the World Series kicked off just a few minutes after the conclusion of the opener as the Granger Panthers controlled all of the momentum going in after handing it to the Magic in Game 1.
American League Cy Young Runner up Jared Jonkman took the mound for the Magic looking to halt Granger's momentum. Jonkman did a great job in the top of the first as he held the Panthers scoreless which made it feel like momentum could be shifting. However Griffin Smith and the Panthers defense did a great job as they held the Magic scoreless as they ended up making a run saving play as they nabbed Caleb Jonkman who was trying to score.
The Panthers then exploded for seven runs in the top of the 2nd as Granger's excitement could be heard from across Kesling Park. The Magic were able to respond with five runs of their own which matched their best inning of the day. Granger won yet another inning in the 3rd as they put up one run while holding the Magic scoreless in the bottom half.
With momentum on their side, Granger smashed three more long balls as they jumped out to an 11-5 lead. Three time NL Cy Young winner Griffin Smith continued to limit the Magic as he allowed two runs before retiring three straight hitters to end the inning. The Panthers continued to control the pace as they scored four runs in the top of the 4th before limiting the Magic to three runs which made the score 15-10 heading into the 6th inning.
With how the day had been going it seemed like Maple City was going to need to hold the Panthers scoreless to have a chance. But just as they had done all day, Granger added three more runs via the long ball as they took an 18-11 lead into the bottom half of the 6th as they moved within three outs away from taking a two games to zero lead in the World Series.
Unlike this Maple City group has done in the past, the Magic went away without a fight in the bottom of the inning as Smith held them scoreless as the Panthers sealed the deal on Game 2 to move within 2 wins from their first World Series title in franchise history.
Austin Williams had another huge game as he went 5/7 with 4 more HR, 5 Runs, and 4 RBI. Alex Zarazee returned to MVP form in the 2nd game as he went 5/7 with 5 HR, 5 Runs, and 5 RBI. Daivyn Davis also put together a great second game as he finished 4/7 with 4 HR, 4 Runs, and 5 RBI. Seth Campbell and Griffin Smith each added two more Home Runs while Smith pitched all 6 innings, limiting the Magic to 11 runs.
Maple City's Caleb Jonkman and Jared Jonkman each finished with 4 hits and 3 Home Runs while Zach Liberatore went 5/6 with 2 HR as he played very well in his World Series return. Alex Friedman and Wes Ellis each added a Home Run in Game 2.
All in all, the Panthers came in to Magic Park and outplayed Maple City across all aspects of the game. They brought a ton of energy and made very few mistakes in the field. The Panthers won 8 out of the 12 innings played while Maple City was only able to win 1 inning over the course of both games as they simply got outplayed.
For Maple City, the 4x defending champs now have their backs up against the wall as they will have a big hill to climb if they want to capture their 5th straight ORWBL title. This team came back from a 2-0 deficit in the Best of 5 ALCS back in 2019 so this group has shown that they can do it.
Meanwhile, Granger will head back home just 2 wins away from their first World Series title after stealing home field advantage away from the Magic. The series now shifts to Snead Field for Games 3, 4, and 5* on Saturday with first pitch beginning at 4:00pm ET, 3:00pm CT. The Panthers will look to end Maple City's title run and capture the franchise's first ORWBL title at their home field on Saturday night while the Magic will hope to send the series back to Magic Park on Sunday.