WILMINGTON — Manteno entered Tuesday night’s Illinois Central Eight Conference game against Wilmington as one of the area’s hottest teams by getting off to a 7-0 start to begin the year, and it didn’t take a full seven frames Tuesday for the Panthers to add an eighth.

The Panthers have been dominating their opponents all season with their latest win coming off a 10-run win against the Wildcats at home Monday. As a result of their dominant play as of late, the Panthers traveled to Wilmington, where they completely annihilated the Wildcats in five innings of action 12-1 to remain unbeaten and improve to 8-0 on the year.

“We are senior-heavy, but we’ve been playing a long time together,” Manteno starting pitcher Luke Trepanier said. “We mesh really well together, and nobody has an ego. It’s good to start the season 8-0, and I hope we can keep it rolling.”

In total, it only took six hits for the Panthers to put up double-digit runs and take the mercy rule victory against the Wildcats. Manteno got things started by taking advantage of Wilmington’s starting pitcher, Nick Sanford’s, shaky start.

Sanford started the game by putting Manteno’s first three batters on base via walks and a hit batter. It eventually resulted in Panther runs off sacrifices by Edan Perez and Nolan Aicher.

“We had a lot of mental mistakes going on with overthrows and errors,” Wildcats coach Mike Bushnell said. “I think in that first inning, we didn’t give up a hit, and they had three runs already. It was mental mistakes that killed us today.”

With the early 3-0 lead, Manteno head coach Matthew Beckner looked toward his ace on the mound, Trepanier, who completely dominated the Wildcats’ offensive attack. The lefty went on to retire 15 of 19 batters faced, including five straight strikeouts to begin the game.

“Trepanier’s performance is something we expect,” Beckner said. “He’s our ace, and we expect him to have a good performance, especially in these conference games.”

Trepanier eventually earned the win in five innings of action, during which he totaled zero earned runs on two hits, 11 strikeouts and a walk.

With their ace fully in control on the mound, the Panthers were able to put the pressure on the Wildcats early and often by scoring runs in all five innings at the plate. Manteno’s offense used its speed on the base paths to snag six stolen bases, which led to multiple throwing errors by the Wildcats. The strong base running by the Panthers helped them routinely get into scoring position, where they finished 10 of 14 with runners in scoring position.

“Our game plan is to put pressure on the defense and force them to throw the ball around and make plays,” Beckner said. “I thought our guys did good job with Wilmington’s pitchers — getting good reads and jumps on the base paths.”

Up 8-0 after four innings, Manteno put up another four-spot in the top of the fifth inning before an unearned Wilmington run before the end of the fifth gave the game its final score.

STAT BOOK

Jack Snyder and Alex Juranich racked up two hits and two RBIs each to lead Manteno’s offense. Cole Jackson added a team-high three steals, and Trepanier picked up the win on the mound.

Kaden Lewis recorded the Wildcats’ only two hits on the day and stole two bases.

UP NEXT

Manteno (8-0) turns around to play Grant Park on the road at 4:30 p.m. today. Wilmington (0-2) heads to Reed-Custer for another ICE battle against the Comets on Thursday at the same time.

Cody is a sports journalist who's been with the Daily Journal since 2020. He's been a sports reporter since his days at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 2019.