Buckley Dutchmasters advance to EI League Tournament championship series with 8-0 semifinal win over Central Illinois Legends

BUCKLEY -- With afternoon temperatures in the 60-70 degree range, the Scheiwe Field weather on Sunday bore more of a resemblance to October than it did to early August.
 
On that same Sunday, the Buckley Dutchmasters earned a return trip to the Eastern Illinois Baseball League's answer to Major League Baseball's Fall Classic.
 
With an 8-0 victory in the EI League Tournament semifinals over the Central Illinois Legends, the Dutchmasters advance to next weekend's best-of-three championship series. 
 
“We play all season for this. This is our October," said Kyle Pool, the Dutchmasters' starting pitcher. "At the end of the day, it's still the same game – nine innings, three outs. It's all the same game. You just try to be on top at the end of it. I'm ready to go.”
 
It is the third year in a row that Buckley will play in the title series, and the sixth time in seven years.
 
The Dutchmasters have won the last two tournament championships. They have more postseason titles (14) than any other team in the EI League.
 
“I'm excited," Dutchmasters manager Brock Niebuhr said. "That's the goal every year – to get there and give yourself a chance. We felt like we've had a really good team all year, and we showed it in a big game like this and played really well. We're just excited to give ourselves a chance, and hopefully, we can play as well next week as we did today.”
 
The top-seeded Dutchmasters (17-5) will face the Champaign Dream, the No. 3 seed, in the championship series. The Dream reached the championship series by defeating the sixth-seeded Paxton Swedes 9-4 in the quarterfinals and the second-seeded Gifford-Flatville Giflats 14-8 in the semifinals.
 
In their last meeting with the Dream, the Dutchmasters won 4-3 in the EI League Jamboree on July 30. Buckley split two doubleheaders with the Dream during the regular season.
 
“We're just taking it week by week. We got it done this week," Buckley shortstop Jay Eshleman said. "Now, we're already thinking ahead about who we've got next week and come ready to play. Hopefully, we'll notch another trophy for the Buckley Dutchmasters. We'll see how it goes.”
 
Game one will be played at Scheiwe Field in Buckley -- the Dream deferred its home-field advantage as the lower seed -- at 2 p.m. Saturday. Game two, also in Buckley, will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday, followed 35-40 minutes later by game three, if necessary.
 
“I'm looking forward to next week," Niebuhr said. "It's going to be a fun championship series, and hopefully, we'll see everybody out here next weekend.”
 
***
Pool pitched a five-hit shutout for Buckley in Sunday's semifinal game as he struck out seven batters and walked two with one hit batsman through nine innings.
 
“It was a good day here in Buckley. I was throwing the ball in the strike zone and being efficient," Pool said. "Guys were making plays behind me. It's always awesome when you can come out and do that.”
 
Pool started his outing with a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the first inning as Ted Lingle flied out to Jonny Walder in left field and Luke Azarelli and Jon Walters each grounded out to Eshleman.
 
“(Pool) really settled in early," Niebuhr said.
 
Walder played left field as Trey Russell was absent for the Dutchmasters -- Russell will be back for the championship series, Niebuhr said. Max Garey took Walder's designated-hitter position.
 
“Jonny's a college outfielder," Niebuhr said. "He's gotten the opportunity to be a designated hitter quite a bit this summer, but if a guy is missing, we expect that he can play in the outfield, and he did a nice job out there today."
 
In the bottom of the first inning, the Dutchmasters continued their momentum from the 1-2-3 top of the first inning as they scored a run to take a 1-0 lead.
 
Jake Stewart led off the bottom of the first with a base hit on a hard ground ball to left field for Buckley.
 
“I would love to know, over the last two year, how many games we've won when Jake Stewart has started the game on base," Niebuhr said. "He just puts so much pressure on, and he did it again today.”
 
After Josh Krumwiede reached base on an error by the Legends' shortstop, Trystyn Schoonover, at third base, Robb Wicks belted a one-out RBI single on a line drive to left field, sending Stewart across home plate. 
 
“That took the pressure off early and gave us a chance to settle in," Niebuhr said. "That was big.”
 
In the top of the second inning, Anthony Bryan struck out swinging before John Harris was hit by a pitch. Harris advanced to second base on a Schoonover groundout to Buckley second-baseman Krumwiede, but was left stranded as Logan Talkington was caught looking at an 0-2 pitch for the strikeout.
 
In the third inning, Pool struck Dylan Manley out swinging and caught Matt Franks looking at strike three. After Lingle singled to center field with two outs, Azarelli grounded out to Eshleman.
 
In the fourth inning, the Legends went down 1-2-3 as Walters grounded out to Wicks at third base, Bryan flied out to Stewart in center field and Harris grounded out to Krumwiede.
 
After Schoonover lined out to Walder and Talkington singled to left field with one out in the fifth inning, Manley and Franks each struck out looking. In the sixth inning, Lingle flied out to Stewart before Dutchmasters first-baseman Rob Winnicki made a sliding stop on an Azerelli ground ball for the second out.
 
“We had a lot of nice plays today, getting the ball over to first base with good throws and stuff like that," Pool said.
 
Walters singled to center field, but Bryan flied out to Drew Schrodt in right field to end the top of the sixth inning.
 
In the seventh inning, Harris grounded out to Winnicki and Schoonover flied out to Stewart, but Talkington hit a two-out single to left field and Manley walked to put runners on first and second base.
 
Pool had a 2-0 count on Franks when catcher Evan Regez threw to Winnicki at first base to pick off Manley for the third out. 
 
“I'm always looking for a baserunner to get one too many steps off the base, and if they do, they're usually out," Regez said.
 
“Evan was there in a big situation," Pool added. "He and (Rob) Winnicki worked well on that. It's always great to get that pick-me-up. That was huge for us.”
 
Regez was starting his second consecutive game at the catcher position.
 
“He's been huge. Having him back behind home plate has been big for us, not because Wicks is not a good catcher, but just because it has given us an opportunity to put Robb Wicks back at third base, which is where he's more comfortable now, and moving Winnicki over to first base," Niebuhr said. 
 
"It has really worked out for us. Evan's been a key part of this last couple of weeks, and we're going to count on him playing a big part next week.”
 
Franks grounded out to Krumwiede to lead off the eighth inning. After Lingle walked, Azarelli lined out to Schrodt and Walters flied out to Stewart.
 
In the ninth inning, Bryan struck out swinging and Harris lined out to Walder before Schoonover hit an infield single. The game ended as Talkington grounded out to Winnicki.
 
With the win, Pool improved his record for the 2017 season to 7-2.
 
“Kyle was outstanding. He was the Kyle Pool we've come to know and expect. He's pitching on the edges on the inside and outside corner. He's staying out of the middle of the plate. He's not a high-velocity guy that's just going to blow it by people, but he moves stuff around," Niebuhr said. 
 
"From the dugout, it looked like he was throwing multiple pitches for strikes and keeping hitters off balance and really looked like he was really hard to square up today. I thought that was probably Kyle's best outing of the year. Hopefully, he can duplicate that next week.”
 
As of Monday, Aug. 7, Pool has an earned-run average of 1.71 with 54 strikeouts through 78 2/3 innings pitched. Prior to Sunday's game, Pool was one of two nominees for the EI League's Most Outstanding Pitcher Award at the league's meeting of managers and commissioners the previous Monday.
 
Pool had one vote as Gifford-Flatville's Austin Tabeling -- who posted a 1.21 earned-run average and six wins while striking out 53 batters in the regular season -- received five votes en route to being selected for the award.
 
“I feel well about the way I pitched this year," Pool said. "There were some games where I gave up too many runs and got in some holes. That's just stuff I look to improve on and get better on for next year.”
 
***
The Dutchmasters scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend their lead to 4-0.
 
With one out, Schrodt reached base on an error by Schoonover before Regez hit a ground ball along the first-base line.
 
The ball stopped on the line before Legends pitcher Scott Runyon could get to it as periods of rain that Sunday dampened Scheiwe Field. There was no throw to first base, but Regez slid toward the base anyway.
 
“It was a hit and run, so I was just trying to put the ball in play," Regez said. "I knew I had a chance to beat it out. I didn't know how close it was going to be.”
 
Schrodt and Regez reached third and second base, respectively, on a groundout by Garey before Winnicki was intentionally walked to load the bases, to the surprise of Buckley's next hitter, Eshleman.
 
“Honestly, I didn't expect an intentional walk for Rob," Eshleman said. "Obviously, we've got faith in him to drive in runs, but as soon as I saw them load up the bases, I knew they were going to come right at me.”
 
Eshleman lined a base hit to right field to send Schrodt and Cole Eshleman -- who ran as a courtesy for the catcher Regez-- across home plate.
 
“I was aggressive early in the count, looking to drive in runs with the bases loaded," Jay Eshleman said. "Being a No. 9 hitter, luckily, you get to see a few more fastballs than breaking balls, so I was just trying to stay back and get a good pitch I could drive, and I got one.”
 
“He stepped up and sat on a first-pitch fastball and took care of business," Niebuhr added. "It was really good to see that out of him in the bottom of the order.”
 
Winnicki advanced to second base on Eshleman's hit. He then stole third base with Stewart at the plate. As Eshleman stole second base, Winnicki crossed home plate on a throwing error by the catcher Azarelli.
 
Buckley added three more runs to their lead in the seventh inning.
 
Stewart walked to lead off and Krumwiede singled to left field before Walder hit an RBI single to left field to send Stewart across home plate.
 
Wicks reached base on an error by Legends first-baseman Talkington, which resulted in Krumwiede crossing home plate.
 
After Schrodt sent Walder home with a sacrifice fly ball to right field, Regez put runners on first and second base with a bunt single.
 
Regez would finish the game hitting 3-for-4.
 
“It was a good day," Regez said. "I hope I can carry it over into next week.”
 
Eshleman went 2-for-4 as he got his second hit via a leadoff single to right field in the eighth inning.
 
“I felt really well at the dish today," Eshleman said. “It was a good win for the team – whatever we've got to do to keep the train rolling. I always like to say the name on the front of the jersey means more than the name on the back. We get to come back next weekend to play again – that's always good.”
 
Legends starting pitcher Scott Runyon -- who was Eshleman's roommate at Eastern Illinois University after they both transferred from Kankakee Community College -- pitched a complete game, allowing eight runs -- four earned -- on nine hits and four walks while striking out four batters through eight innings.
 
“It was a big battle between me and Scott Runyon," Eshleman said. "I'm really good buddies with him, and he's a great pitcher. If they make a few more plays for him, it's probably a totally different game, but hat's off to Scott. I was just seeing it really well today.”
 
After Stewart walked and Krumwiede reached base on a fielder's choice to send Eshleman to third base, Eshleman crossed home plate on a wild pitch.
 
Buckley Dutchmasters 8, Central Illinois Legends 0
CIL 000     000    000    -- 0    5    4
BUC 100     300    31x    -- 8    9    1
W -- Kyle Pool, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 7 K, 2 BB. L -- Scott Runyon, 8 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 5 K, 4 BB.
Central Illinois (12-11) -- Ted Lingle 1-3. Jon Walters 1-4. Trystyn Schoonover 1-4. Logan Talkington 2-4. 
Buckley (17-5) -- Jake Stewart 1-3, 2 R. Josh Krumwiede 1-5, R. Jonny Walder 1-5, RBI, R. Robb Wicks 1-4, RBI. Drew Schrodt RBI, R. Evan Regez 3-4. Cole Eshleman R. Rob Winnicki R. Jay Eshleman 2-4, 2 RBIs, R. 
 
EASTERN ILLINOIS BASEBALL LEAGUE TOURNAMENT
QUARTERFINALS
SUNDAY, Aug. 6
At Buckley 
Game 1 -- Central Illinois Legends 11, Royal Giants 4
At Gifford
Game 2 -- Champaign Dream 9, Paxton Swedes 4
SEMIFINALS
SUNDAY, Aug. 6
At Buckley
Game 3 -- Buckley Dutchmasters 8, Central Illinois Legends 0
At Gifford
Game 4 -- Champaign Dream 14, Gifford-Flatville Giflats 8
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Best-of-three series
SATURDAY, Aug. 12
Game 1  -- Buckley Dutchmasters at Champaign Dream, 2 p.m.*
SUNDAY, Aug 13
Game 2 -- Champaign Dream at Buckley Dutchmasters, 1 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary, at Buckley), shortly after Game 2
* -- The Champaign Dream deferred home-field advantage to Buckley
NOTE: EI League awards to be announced prior to the first game on Sunday.

 

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