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BUCKLEY — Say this much for Sunday’s three-game Eastern Illinois Baseball League jamboree in Buckley: Riddled with some shoddy defense, it might not have been the prettiest baseball, but the league race just got a whole lot more interesting.
Second-place Royal inched within a game of league leader Buckley by topping the hosts 4-3 in the nightcap at Scheiwe Field. Jesse Remington was the unexpected star for the Giants, earning the win in relief of starter Nick McCann, who left after two innings because of pain in his throwing shoulder. Remington (4-1) proceeded to go five innings, scattering six hits and allowing two runs, one earned.
“I was pretty confident with Jesse,” Royal manager Michael Harper said. “He did a great job to finish that game out.”
Of course, Remington and the Giants didn’t make it easy on their skipper, slithering into and out of trouble in the final two innings.
Behind RBIs from Kevin Bird (1-for-2, triple, run, RBI), Kevin Sweeney (1-for-3, triple, two runs, RBI), Cody Flowers (2-for-3) and Mike Cessna, Royal took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth. Two batters after an RBI single by Buckley’s Mark Walther (1-for-3, run, RBI) cut it to 4-2, Remington looked to get out of the inning by inducing Drew Schrodt to ground a ball to third. But the throw of third baseman Flowers sailed low and wide of first, plating a run and putting the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position.
Remington got out of that jam by getting Buckley’s Josh Krumwiede, who had already doubled twice and singled, to fly out to center field. In the last of the seventh, another tense situation ensued when the first two Dutchmasters reached base, bringing reigning EI Player of the Year Brandon McFarland to the plate with no one out. But again, Remington made the pitches he had to, getting McFarland and Barry McDonley to fly out before Rob Winnicki grounded out to end it.
“He made me a little nervous,” Harper said with a laugh. “But he’s a good pitcher, and he was throwing strikes and making them put it in play.”
“I told myself to bear down and let them get themselves out,” Remington added.
The difference in the game was Buckley’s inability to come up with the clutch hit, said Dutchmasters manager Ryne Scheiwe, whose team stranded runners in scoring position in five of the seven innings.
“They put the bat on the ball when they needed to. We didn’t get hits when we needed them. We battled there at the end and showed fight, but it wasn’t enough,” Scheiwe said.
Royal’s win was telling in that it came against Buckley ace Paul Phillips (5-1), who lasted five-plus innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits and a walk. He was chased after giving up two triples and a single to start the sixth, and it was the first time in the past two seasons that Phillips had lost a regular-season contest.
“He didn’t have his out stuff. That put us in a little bit different position,” Scheiwe said of Phillips.
“Their lineup is what it is. They have good sticks one through nine. They’re a tough team.”
The win moved Royal (11-4) to within a game of Buckley (12-3) as the season enters the homestretch, with six games remaining. Gifford-Flatville (10-5) is also in the race for the top seed, but if the Dutchmasters and Giants take care of their other business, their doubleheader in Royal on July 22 will likely decide the regular-season crown.
“It’s going to be a fun race to the finish,” Harper said. “We have Buckley again in a couple weeks, so if neither of us stumble, it should be a fight for first.”
The loss broke Buckley’s eight-game winning streak.
“We’ll get to see these guys again,” Scheiwe said. “Hopefully we’ll get two wins next week against Colfax and get it rolling again.”
Central Illinois 7-8
Mattoon (DNP) 0-14
Sunday, July 15
• Colfax @ Buckley
• Watskea @ Paxton
• Royal @ Central Illinois in Rantoul
Note: All games are doubleheaders starting at 1 p.m.
• Watseka 2, Central Illinois 0
• Gifford-Flatville 7, Paxton 6
• Royal 4, Buckley 3
Batting average (min. 30 PA)
Woods (Wat) .569
McFarland (Buck) .429
Krumwiede (Buck) .426
Bird (Royal) 2
Hamerstrand (Col) 2
10 tied at ... 1
McFarland (Buck) 19
Woods (Wat) 19
Morefield (Wat) 12
Woods (Wat) 6
Phillips (Buck) 5
Remington (Royal) 4
West (Gif-Flat) 4
ERA (min. 15 IP)
Woods (Wat) 0.96
West (Gif-Flat) 1.15
Grant (Paxton) 1.27
Remington (Royal) 1.55
Woods (Wat) 75
Phillips (Buck) 46
Miller (Cent. Ill.) 43