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Once again, the Buckley Dutchmasters have sent an early season message: They’re the team to beat in the Eastern Illinois Baseball League.
Host Buckley swept a doubleheader from defending EI champion Gifford-Flatville by scores of 11-1 and 5-4 on Sunday, earning a small measure of revenge against the team that toppled the Dutchmasters in last season’s championship series. It won’t make anyone forget about last year, but the sweep put Buckley in solid position early to win a fourth consecutive regular-season title. The Dutchmasters, now 4-0 and tied atop the North Division, and Gif-Flats, now 2-2 and in second in the South Division, are not scheduled to meet each other again. However, it’s possible the two league favorites could meet in an early July midseason jamboree that will match up like seeds from the two respective divisions at that time.
Whatever the case, Buckley has the inside track, in large part due to the pitching of Paul Phillips and hitting of Brandon McFarland. A year after each won an EI individual award, they haven’t slowed down. In the 11-1 win in the opener, McFarland went 3-for-3, doubling, tripling and driving in five runs as Buckley broke a 1-1 tie after two and a half innings by scoring five times in the bottom of the third and five more times in the fourth. That made a winner of Phillips (2-0), who pitched all five innings in the run-rule-shortened game, giving up one earned run on two hits while striking out seven and walking one. Josh Krumwiede, Mark Walther and Jay Eshleman all chipped in with an RBI apiece for Buckley as well.
In the nightcap, the Dutchmasters trailed 2-1 before scoring four times in the third inning and holding on from there. Barry McDonley led the way offensively, going 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. Krumwiede added two hits and two RBIs as well.
Drew Watts earned the win, allowing two runs, both earned, on three hits in five innings. He also hit three batters, walked two and struck out nine. After Gifford-Flatville cut the deficit to 5-4 with two runs off Walther in the sixth, Buckley closer Brock Niebuhr shut the door with a scoreless seventh inning.
Buckley again has a pair of big games awaiting it this Sunday, as it hosts rival Paxton in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. at Scheiwe Field. The Swedes are 4-0 in the North Division as well, though this past weekend’s wins came via two forfeit victories made possible by Mattoon leaving the league.
Royal still undefeated
In other EI action Sunday, Royal swept Colfax by scores of 7-1 and 3-1. The wins moved the Giants to 4-0 this season, and they lead the South Division.
In Watseka, the hosts split with Central Illinois. The visiting Robins scored three times in the top of the ninth to pull out a wild 13-11 win in the opener before the Angels took the second contest 6-3.
EI League standings
Central Illinois 1-3
Mattoon (DNP) 0-4