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GIFFORD — The No. 3 pitcher threw like an ace, allowing Buckley’s Dutchmasters to pass their toughest test of the Eastern Illinois Baseball League season.
Teenager Kyle Pool, a recent Iroquois West graduate, pitched 7 innings Sunday in his first E.I. tournament championship-game start and was backed by a defense that made every play but one as Buckley topped Royal 7-1 in the 77th tournament title game.
To force the tiebreaking third game in the best-of-three series, the Dutchmasters survived Sunday’s opener 15-11, a game where the two teams combined to issue 16 walks and hit four batters.
Pool had specific instructions prior to taking the mound.
“After the way the first game drug on, we told him, ‘Throw strikes and have them put it in play,’ ” Buckley first baseman Ryne Scheiwe said.
Of Royal’s 27 outs in the decisive game, 15 were fly balls to the outfield. Eight of those were hauled in by center fielder Brandon McFarland.
“Their defense picked them up,” Royal manager Mike Harper said. “We played hard but came up short.”
The visiting Dutchmasters scored two runs in the top of the first inning of each game. In the opener, Royal responded with five runs in its first at-bat. Buckley took the lead for good, 7-5, in the third inning on the first of Scheiwe’s three doubles for the day.
In the final game, Pool — who will pitch for Olivet Nazarene University — prevented the Giants from rallying.
“You can’t put into words how well he pitched,” Buckley manager Brock Niebuhr said. “That’s probably the best outing he’s ever had.
“We didn’t expect it, but we had confidence in him. We know he is reliable. For a lot of teams, he’d be their No. 1 or No. 2. For us, he was willing to pitch relief.”
Sunday’s start was his second for Buckley, which closed the season with a 20-6 record. Royal ended 18-7.
Buckley’s championship marks the fifth time in the nine years of the best-of-three championship series that the team which won the opening game was swept on the season’s final day.
McFarland, who played on Buckley’s 2005 tourney titlists, said there were positive feelings before Sunday’s games.
“We came in with the mentality that we had to win a doubleheader, which we’ve done all year,” he said. “We knew if we played our baseball, we’re the best team in the league.”
McFarland and Barry McDonley drove in first-inning runs to stake Pool to a 2-0 lead. The lead grew to 6-1 in the third on Scheiwe’s two-run double. “It’s all about momentum,” Scheiwe said.
Brandon Moyer and Scheiwe were the Dutchmasters with two hits apiece in the title game. For the day, teammate Trey Russell was the leader, going 5 for 9.
Blake Hoveln, Kevin Bird and Markus White had two hits each for the Giants in the final, accounting for all but one of the team’s hits. For the day, Hoveln and Cody Flowers were the lone Royal players with hits in each game.
Buckley’s salvation in the opener was a stellar four-inning relief stint by side-armer Mark Walther. He struck out five and allowed two hits in his outing and got the game-ending out on an infield ground ball with the bases loaded.
“We got so much momentum from the first game that it carried us through, and we never let up,” Niebuhr said.
Royal wins opener 9-5
Royal won the opener Saturday 9-5. On a day the defense rested — there were six infield errors committed by each team at Scheiwe Field — Royal left-hander Jesse Remington pitched a complete game, retiring the final batter in the bottom of the ninth inning — a player who represented the tying run — on a popup to first baseman Gentry Van Allen.
“We came out with the win in the end and that’s all that matters,” said Remington, a sophomore-to-be at Parkland College. “(Catcher) Markus (White) was calling a good game, and I trusted him.”
Buckley’s Paul Phillips was the hard-luck loser. He allowed nine runs, but just one was earned. He struck out eight and walked four.
“He battled and battled but didn’t get a lot of help,” Buckley manager Brock Niebuhr said.
Zach Villwock was summoned with two outs in the seventh inning and two runners on base. He ended the threat with a strikeout.
“We were able to take advantage of their mistakes more than they were ours,” Royal manager Mike Harper said.
The Giants (18-5) plated five runs in the second inning and never relinquished the lead.
“We hit the ball early, got a comfortable lead and that gave us confidence the rest of the game,” Remington said.
The lower third of the Giants’ batting order — Van Allen, Mike Cessna and White — combined to score five of the team’s runs.
Leadoff batter Lukas Graves also scored two runs.
“They came up with more two-out hits than we did,” Niebuhr said. “We dug ourselves a hole. We didn’t play well defensively, but they gave us every chance to get back in the game.”
Remington (6-1) struck out seven and walked three.
He yielded seven hits, but none in the final two innings.
“A gutsy performance,” Niebuhr said. “He toughed it out and saved their bullpen.”
Cody Flowers led Royal’s 11-hit attack with three hits. Van Allen and Blake Hoveln each had two hits.
Brandon Moyer was the lone Buckley player with more than one hit. He was 2 for 5.
After Buckley closed within 5-4 in the fifth, the Giants tacked on four more runs in the seventh. Though the Giants scored in just two innings, they had base runners in eight and stranded 15 runners (nine in scoring position).
Buckley left nine runners on base.
For the first time since the best-of-three format was introduced for the championship weekend, a team made a father-for-son substitution. Buckley’s Trent Eshleman — the principal at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School — replaced his son Jay, an upcoming junior at PBL, at shortstop in the fifth inning. Trent Eshleman had a double, one of four Buckley had against Remington.