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BUCKLEY — For all the strategy that can go into baseball, from the steal and hit-and-run calls, to the bunt-or-not-to-bunt debate, to knowing just the precise moment to bring in that lefty reliever, the Buckley Dutchmasters have rendered it all meaningless with the most basic principle there is.
Don’t let your opponent score, and you win. Nothing else really matters after that.
Eastern Illinois Baseball League-leading Buckley (12-2) swept another doubleheader, this time from Central Illinois at its own Scheiwe Field, behind lights-out pitching Sunday. The Dutchmasters didn’t do a lot at the plate, but it didn’t matter in 2-1 and 3-0 wins, with hurlers Paul Phillips and Kyle Pool contributing to a streak that’s now seen Buckley give up just one run in its last 38 innings, which has helped it open a two-game lead on the next closest EI competitor, Royal (10-4).
“They haven’t even really had many baserunners,” Buckley player-manager Brock Niebuhr said of the opponents in recent weeks.
In the opener, Central Illinois managed just two hits and a run off Phillips, who went all nine innings and struck out 11 without walking a batter. It was his third complete game in as many Sundays, and he moved to 5-0 on the season.
“It’s my only game of the week. It’s what I got to do in case Game 2 gets (tough for pitchers). I always like finishing what I started,” Phillips said in reference to his workhorse mentality. “Having the ability to do it every week is just fun.”
Phillips kept Central Illinois off balance with a hard fastball, his change-up — which often is his go-to pitch — and what he called a “really good” curveball.
“I had swing-and-miss stuff today,” Phillips said.
He needed his best stuff too, because the Buckley bats took some time to get going. The Dutchmasters didn’t record a hit until Brandon Moyer’s one-out single in the sixth inning started a two-run rally, with the runs scoring on a Rob Winnicki RBI single and a Drew Watts sacrifice fly.
Other than that, Buckley was held at bay by Central Illinois righty Matt Miller, who allowed four hits, walked five and struck out eight in eight innings of work.
“Offensively we weren’t real good by any stretch of the imagination, but we battled and we found a way to get enough runs across,” Niebuhr said.
The 3-0 win in Game 2 continued Buckley’s everyone-chip-in-anyway-possible narrative. Because of the absence of starting catcher Barry McDonley and backup Keaton Zirkle, usual No. 2 starter Watts was needed behind the plate just like in Game 1, instead of on the mound. Prior to the day, he hadn’t caught since he was a junior in high school.
“We had guys step up and play out of position and get things done,” Niebuhr said.
“Watts deserves a ton of credit. He caught all 16 innings and did a great job.”
With Watts catching, Kyle Pool took his turn in being a stopper. The recent Iroquois West graduate fired a three-hit shutout, striking out three without walking a batter in seven nings. Buckley didn’t walk a Central Illinois batter on the day.
Pool (2-1) used a similar mentality as Phillips in mowing down the Robins, Niebuhr said.
“He threw extremely well ... He doesn’t throw extremely hard, but he changes speeds. He threw a ton of strikes,” Niebuhr said. “He took Paul Phillips’ game plan from Game 1 and put it into effect in Game 2 and came out with basically the same results.
“We feel really confident with Kyle Pool pitching. We wanted to give him a chance to get stretched out anyway, give him an opportunity to start a game here and there. So it worked out.”
Watts and Drew Schrodt each had RBIs in Game 2 as Buckley finished up a sweep without the services of starters McDonley, Jeff Meyer and Bryce Redeker. The Dutchmasters scored single runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings.
“It was an interesting lineup again,” Niebuhr said.
“That’s all right. The guys that are there are going to play hard, and that’s what we did, and we found a way to get it done again.”
Central Illinois 7-7
Mattoon (DNP) 0-14
Sunday, July 8
Watseka vs. Central Illinois, noon
Paxton vs. Gifford-Flatville, 2 p.m.
Royal vs. Buckley, 4 p.m.
Note: All matchups are single games in Buckley.
Buckley 2, Central Illinois 1
Royal 6, Paxton 4
Watseka 2, Gifford-Flatville 1
Buckley 3, Central Illinois 0
Royal 4, Paxton 0
Gifford-Flatville 2, Watseka 1