PBL baseball clinches third straight outright SVC title, increases conference win streak to 41 with doubleheader sweep over South Newton

KENTLAND, Ind. -- With a 5-12, 0-1 doubleheader sweep of South Newton on Saturday, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda baseball team won its third consecutive outright Sangamon Valley Conference championship.
The wins also increased the Panthers' winning streak against conference opponents to 41. Their last loss in SVC play was to Cissna Park via a 13-12 score on May 8, 2014.
“It feels great. This is huge as a coach in my last year going out and winning it again with this bunch of seniors who have been down the road a long time. It's not just me," PBL head coach Rick Johnson said. 
"There have been a lot of people who have contributed to their success, and I just happen to be the guy at the end of the line who's reaping the benefits of all the hard work that they and other people have done. It's mighty sweet.”
During Saturday's doubleheader, Andrew Zenner and Keaton Krumwiede pitched a combined shutout through 12 innings. 
Zenner struck out nine batters and walked none while allowing no runs on four hits in a complete-game effort in game one.
In game two, Krumwiede struck out five batters and walked none while allowing no runs on three hits through five innings. Mitch St. Peter allowed a run on one hit and no walks while striking out a batter through one inning of a game that ended in six innings due to the 10-run rule.
“We had outstanding pitching," Johnson said.
The Panthers (27-2, 14-0 SVC) also produced a home run in each game -- Cooper Johnson homered in game one and Kaleb Denault rounded the bases in game two. 
“Those were huge, and the timing of those were big," Rick Johnson said.
Game 1
The Panthers started the game with two runs in the top of the first inning.
Dalton Coplea led off with a double  to right field before Cooper Johnson hit a triple to center field to send Coplea across home plate for the go-ahead run. Johnson then scored on a passed ball with two outs.
From there, however, the Panthers -- and the Rebels -- were shut out through the next three innings.
“It was a nip and tuck game," Rick Johnson said.
After Nick Babcock hit a single to right field with one out in the bottom of the first inning for South Newton (14-6, 10-4), Zenner struck out Jay Hammel and Neil Geswein to end the inning.
The Rebels went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the second inning as Levi Sample grounded out to the PBL third baseman Krumwiede and Josh Messersmith hit a ground ball to Zenner before Zenner struck Brody Derflinger out swinging.
Terron Walsh led off the third inning with a single before advancing to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Carson Anderson, but Johnny Lanie grounded out to the shortstop Cole Eshleman and Babcock struck out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Hammel singled to center field and Sample sent a base hit to center field to put runners on first and second base. In between the two hits, Geswein flied out to Mason Ecker in left field. 
“Mason Ecker just made an awesome running play out there and just shut down any chance that they had to get something started," Johnson said. "That was kind of the game changer in the first inning.”
Hammel and Sample were left stranded on base as Zenner struck out Messersmith and Derflinger.
As of Saturday, Zenner (7-0) has yet to allow an earned run this season and has struck out 67 batters while yielding 20 hits and three walks through 44 2/3 innings pitched.
“We've gotten spoiled with Zenner, where we kind of expect him to dominate every game," Rick Johnson said. "So far, that's what he's done.”
The Panthers scored three runs in the top of the fifth inning.
Ecker led off the inning with a line-drive single to center field. In the next at-bat, Krumwiede bunted and reached base on a South Newton error. 
Dalton Coplea then put both runners in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt before Eshleman sent Ecker home with another sacrifice bunt.
With two outs, Cooper Johnson hit a two-run home run past the right-field fence. 
“It was awesome. I was concerned when they had only one umpire. The strike zone was extremely big," Johnson said. "We tried not to complain about it. We tried to adjust, which was nearly impossible, but we just hung in there and battled and did a great job. That's what senior-dominated teams should do.”
Game 2
The first two innings were scoreless as Krumwiede struck out the side in the second inning. Hammel hit a two-out single in the bottom of the first inning, but Geswein popped out to Luke Fitton to end the inning.
Eshleman singled and stole second base in the top of the first inning, but Cooper Johnson flied out and a line drive hit by Zenner was caught in right field by Durflinger. Denault hit a leadoff single in the second inning and Jaxson Coplea was hit by a pitch, but Fitton struck out and Ecker bunted into a double play.
In the top of the third inning, the Panthers lighted up the scoreboard with six runs.
Dalton Coplea reached base with one out on an error as a ground ball went through Babcock's glove at third base. Eshleman singled to left field to put runners on first and second base before Cooper Johnson sent Coplea home with a base hit to right field.
A Zenner single to left field sent Eshleman across home plate before Denault belted a two-run homer over the right-field fence -- and over the parking lot, according to Rick Johnson.
“That would have landed on the softball field at our home field, which is a shot," Johnson said. "That's awful nice for Kaleb. I'm happy for him.”
Jaxson Coplea reached base via hit-by-pitch in the next at-bat before Fitton hit an RBI double to center field to send Tommy Quinn -- who ran as a courtesy for the catcher Coplea -- across home plate. Fitton crossed home plate as Ecker hit an RBI infield single.
In the fourth inning, PBL added another run as Eshleman singled to center field and Cooper Johnson walked before Zenner sent Eshleman home with an RBI base hit to center field.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Ecker was hit by a pitch and Krumwiede reached base on an error to put runners in scoring position. Ecker scored on a wild pitch before Dalton Coplea singled on a line drive to center field to send Krumwiede across home plate to extend PBL's lead to 9-0.
After Krumwiede struck out Sample to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning, Josh Messersmith singled on a line drive to left field and Brody Durflinger singled to right field to put runners on first and second base for the Rebels. 
Walsh then hit a ground ball to Krumwiede, who threw to Eshleman at second base before Eshleman tossed the ball to Fitton at first base to complete an inning-ending double play.
The double play concluded Krumwiede's time on the mound. As of Saturday, Krumwiede (7-0) has an ERA of 0.55 with 21 strikeouts.
St. Peter singled on a line drive to right field and Denault walked with one out for PBL in the top of the sixth inning. With two outs, Tyler Adkins hit an infield single to load the bases.
Ecker then drew a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to send St. Peter across home plate before Quinn hit an RBI single to left field. Adkins crossed home plate on a stolen base.
South Newton scored its only run of the doubleheader in the bottom of the sixth inning as Johnny Lanie hit a one-out double to left field before crossing home plate on a wild pitch.
Up next
The Panthers will conclude their regular season at Prairie Central on Monday.
“That'll be good competition," Johnson said. "Luke (Fitton) will be on the mound Monday, and they're going to have to play hard to be us.”
A win over Prairie Central and victories in the IHSA Class 2A Gilman Iroquois West Regional semifinals and championship game -- scheduled for Wednesday and Saturday, respectively -- would put the Panthers at the 30-win mark for the season.
“I think we've had five or six games rained out. We might have been able to reach that," Rick Johnson said. It'd be nice to get to 30, but the biggest thing now is Wednesday and Saturday. It's been a lot of fun. I'm hoping it'll continue for a while.”
Game 1
PBL 5, South Newton 0
PBL 200    030    0    -- 5   6   1
SN 000    000    0    -- 0   4   2
W -- Andrew Zenner, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 9 K, 0 BB. L -- Hammel, 7 IP, 6 H, 5 R, ER, 11 K, 3 BB.
PBL -- Dalton Coplea 1-3, , 2B, R. Cole Eshleman RBI, 2 BB. Cooper Johnson 3-4, 3B, HR, 3 RBIs, 2 R. Mason Ecker 2-3, R. Keaton Krumwiede R. 
South Newton -- Babcock 1-3. Hammel 1-3. Sample 1-2. Welsh 1-2.
Game 2
PBL 12, South Newton 1
PBL 006    123    -- 12   14   0
SN 000    000    --  0     4    3
W -- Keaton Krumwiede, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 5 K, 0 BB. L -- Lanie, 3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, ER, 3 K, 0 BB. .
PBL (27-2, 14-0) -- Dalton Coplea 1-5, RBI. Cole Eshleman 3-4, 2 R. Cooper Johnson 1-3, RBI, R. Andrew Zenner 2-3, 2 RBIs. Mitch St. Peter 1-1, R. Kaleb Denault 2-3, HR, 2 RBIs, 2 R. Tommy Quinn 1-1, RBI, R. Luke Fitton 1-3, 2B, RBI, R. Tyler Adkins 1-1, R.
South Newton (14-6, 10-4) -- Lanie 1-3, 2B, R. Hammel 1-3. Messersmith 1-2. Durflinger 1-2.
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports


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