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PAXTON — With the thought of being swept by Paxton in early June still fresh in its mind, Buckley left no doubt Sunday about one thing after earning a measure of revenge with a dominating series sweep of its rival.
Good pitching still rules the Eastern Illinois Baseball League, and when the Dutchmasters’ staff is dealing its best stuff, they have the best staff.
Reigning EI Pitcher of the Year Paul Phillips returned to his old self after an earlier season start against Paxton in which he looked human, providing a complete-game effort in Buckley’s 8-0 win in Game 1 in Paxton. Phillips (4-0) scattered four hits and walked no one in nine innings of work, striking out five in the process while being backed by a defense that didn’t make an error.
“Paul Phillips was as good as we’ve seen him all year,” Buckley player-manager Brock Niebuhr said.
“His big thing was he threw a lot of strikes. He didn’t walk anybody. When he does that, he’s really good, and we saw that ... He set the tone for the day. We were there to get after it.”
Phillips got all the support he would need in the first inning, when the Dutchmasters plated three runs. It was highlighted by a double from Bryce Redeker and a triple from Brandon McFarland, who were all over the bases all day long. In the opener, McFarland went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and scored twice. Redeker — a former Dutchmaster making his season debut after returning to the area from college at Miami of Ohio — went 4-for-4 with two runs scored, doubling in his first three at-bats.
“Having him in the lineup was a huge addition,” Niebuhr said.
After countless missed offensive opportunities cost Buckley dearly in its doubleheader loss to Paxton on June 3, scoring early runs was crucial this weekend, Niebuhr thought.
“It all came together at the right time. It was kind of a perfect storm for us. Once we got going offensively, it kind of seemed to snowball a little bit,” said Niebuhr, whose squad tacked on two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth innings off Swedes starter Jordan Richardson (0-1), who took the loss in allowing six runs, all earned, on nine hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings.
“That was the best we’d played all year,” Niebuhr continued. “We set the tone by getting three runs in the top of the first inning of Game 1. We gave ourselves a lot of confidence. We played at a high level all day. It seemed like we were on top of things. We were there for a reason, to take care of business.”
Game 2 was more of the same. Drew Watts (3-0) allowed just two hits and two walks in throwing six innings for the win by a score of 4-0. He also struck out five in an effort that Niebuhr called “probably the best we’ve seen him pitch in a Buckley uniform.” Kyle Pool finished the game by throwing a scoreless seventh. In all, the Swedes had just eight hits in 16 innings of baseball on Sunday.
“Our pitchers pitched the way they were capable,” Niebuhr said.
Buckley scored once in the third and fourth innings off Paxton starter Craig Pinley (0-2), who took the loss in allowing two runs, both earned, in five innings on six hits and three walks. The Dutchmasters also tacked on single runs in the sixth and seventh innings off Swedes reliever Deven Lee. Jeff Meyer, Redeker and Josh Krumwiede all recorded RBIs for Buckley.
The wins moved the Dutchmasters to 10-2 overall. That’s good for a two-game lead over Paxton (8-4) and Gifford-Flatville (8-4), the latter of which was swept by Royal on Saturday.
“It’s important,” Niebuhr said of winning the regular-season title. “We want to win every weekend. We don’t want to take any weekends off. That top seed is important going into the tournament because you don’t have to play on Saturday of the first round. It is a big deal.
“We control our destiny. We got to take care of business here.”
Central Illinois 7-5
Mattoon (DNP) 0-12
Sunday, July 1
Central Illinois @ Buckley
Royal @ Paxton
Watseka @ Gifford-Flatville
— all matchups are doubleheaders starting at 1 p.m.
Royal 13, G-F 3 (6)
Royal 6, G-F 3
Buckley 8, Paxton 0
Buckley 4, Paxton 0
Colfax 14, Watseka 13
Watseka 11, Colfax 1 (5)