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Mehlville baseball seizes first victory over Oakville since April 2001 game

It had been a long time since the Mehlville Senior High School Panthers had defeated their sister school in baseball.

Whatever voodoo magic spell Oakville had cast on the Panthers over the past several years has come to an end. That spell disappeared last Wednesday as Mehlville walked away with a stout 7-5 victory over the Tigers.

In fact, the Panthers (2-1) hadn't defeated Oakville since April of 2001 in which Mehlville handed the Tigers a 5-2 defeat. The Panthers actually defeated Oakville twice during the 2001 campaign.

Yet for the moment, every win for the Panthers is a big win, according to head coach Jim Kern.

"I think that right now all of our wins are big wins just in order to get us on the right track," Kern told the Call.

The Panthers once again are a young squad this season with six seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and one freshman. Kern believes that one of the keys to success for the Panthers this season will be getting wins in non-conference.

"We're going to need to get wins early in order to build our confidence," Kern said. "We were young last year and lost some really close games. I think that is what got us really off track."

The Panthers found themselves staring at a 3-0 deficit after the first inning, but clawed their way back with a run in the top of the second inning.

Mehlville then took the lead in the top of the third inning with a two-run home run shot by Eric Tripp. The senior catcher had a solid performance against the Tigers as he went 2-3 at the plate with three runs batted in on one triple and a home run.

"I think that his hard work before the Oakville game really paid off," Kern said.

Mehlville pounded out two more runs in the top of the fifth inning, which was more than enough to tame the Tigers.

"I think that the big difference in the Oakville game is that we didn't give up," Kern said. "Even though we were down three runs in the first inning, the kids just didn't give up."

Also contributing to the Mehlville win was starting pitcher Steve Thurmond, who gave up eight runs in six innings pitched. The sophomore hurler gave up five earned runs, while striking out three and walking two in the winning effort.

"Steve is a competitor who goes out there to win," Kern said. "When he's got good command of his pitches and hits his spots, he can be very effective."

Mehlville hits the road this afternoon — Thursday, April 1 — as the team travels to Northwest-House Springs for a friendly non-conference showdown with the Lions — a team Kern believes mirrors his squad in terms of talent.

"They have similar talent as we do," Kern said. "Right now, all of our games are important."

The Panthers' contest against the Lions is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start.

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