PBL baseball clinches SVC title with come-from-behind win over Clifton Central

PAXTON -- Conference championships have been clinched in easier fashions than the way in which Paxton-Buckley-Loda's baseball team claimed the Sangamon Valley Conference title on Tuesday, May 8.
With an 8-7 victory over Clifton Central, the Panthers clinched their fourth consecutive SVC title.
“It's one of those things you always set out to do at the beginning of the year. You want to win a certain number of games," PBL head coach Brock Niebuhr said. 
"You want to win your conference games and win a conference title. To do that, and to be able to do it on our home field tonight and not have to get in a winner-take-all situation on Thursday was nice.” 
After the first 6 1/2 innings of Tuesday's game, however, it did look Thursday between PBL (18-8, 12-1 SVC) and the Central Comets (14-7, 10-3) at Clifton would determine who would be the SVC's champion.
The Panthers went into the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 7-4.
Less than a week prior, the Panthers were in a similar situation against Blue Ridge, when PBL won 9-8 after coming back from a four-run deficit in the final inning.
On Tuesday, the Panthers rallied their way to a victory once again.
“It's been us all year – we just keep battling," Niebuhr said. “We didn't play our best baseball for the first three or four innings, but we just continued to battle and found a way to break through in the seventh and got guys putting together quality at-bats.”
Mason Ecker led off the inning with a base hit to right field.
“That's good to see," Niebuhr said. "He's been struggling at the plate, so for him to get going was big.”
For Ecker, the PBL baseball team's SVC title clincher on Tuesday was his second conference championship won over a span of two days.
He helped the PBL boys track and field team claim the Twin Valley Conference title the previous Monday by running in 4x100 and 4x200 relay races, in each of which the Panthers claimed a first-place finish.
“I'm thrilled that he's doing both (sports). It's a credit to him that he's willing to put the time in for both. He has not slacked off on one or on the other. He gets his track work done in the mornings as needed, and he comes out here and finds a way to get it done for us," Niebuhr said. 
"I'm appreciative that (PBL head boys track coach Dustin) Franckey's willing to work with us and make it work. Between the two of us, we have a great relationship, and we'll do everything we can to help each other. In the grand scheme of things, it's about the PBL Panthers. 
"It's not about PBL baseball. It's not about PBL track or anything else. It really is about the PBL Panthers. Coach Franckey and I both believe that, and it has worked really well.”
Jaxson Coplea got on base with an infield single to put runners on first and second base.
“He had a nice swing," Niebuhr said.
In the next at-bat, Ben McClure sent Ecker across home plate with a double to left field.
“From there, we just executed," Niebuhr said.
Following McClure's RBI double, Central pulled its starting pitcher, Brody Sertich, from the mound. Sertich allowed five runs -- four earned -- on nine hits and no walks while striking out five batters through six innings before being relieved by Austin Boudreau.
On Boudreau's first pitch, Gavin Coplea -- who ran as a courtesy for Jaxson Coplea -- crossed home plate on a passed ball. McClure advanced to third base on the same pitch.
After Keaton Krumwiede walked on four pitches, Boudreau was relieved by Matt Balthazor.
Krumwiede stole second base on an 0-2 pitch to Ben Jarboe. With McClure still on third base, Niebuhr tried to get Gavin Coplea to pinch run for him, but because Gavin already ran as a courtesy for Jaxson that inning, the umpires disallowed it.
Balthazor struck out Jarboe, but in the next at-bat, Tommy Quinn lined an 0-2 pitch to left field to send McClure across home plate for the tying run.
“We had some guys struggling offensively, but fortunately for them, they started seeing the balls fall,” Niebuhr said.
Krumwiede advanced to third base on Quinn's RBI single. Trey VanWinkle then hit a short ground ball to Comets third-baseman Andrew Boudreau.
Boudreau's throw to home plate was not in time as Krumwiede slid safely toward home plate to score the game-winning run.
"Trey found a way to put the ball in play. It wasn't the greatest swing in the world, but he found a way to put the ball in play. In that kind of situation, that's what you need," Niebuhr said. "Keaton Krumwiede did a great job with his baserunning. He anticipated contact right away and ran as soon as he saw it, and he was able to score. It was good baseball.”
Krumwiede, McClure and Jaxson Coplea were three of five seniors who, along with Jake Watts -- who started at right field for PBL in Tuesday's game -- and Connor Janssen, celebrated senior-night festivities prior to Tuesday's game.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to get Connor in and use him as a pitcher," Niebuhr said.
In their first three years at PBL High School, PBL won three consecutive conference championships -- and two straight regional titles -- under Niebuhr's predecessor, Rick Johnson.
“As a first-year coach, I'm very appreciative of those guys buying into a new coaching regime," Niebuhr said. "They've bought into the changes we've made, which there aren't a ton, but they've bought in, and I'm very appreciative of that. Outside of baseball, they're just great kids. I look forward to (seeing) what they do in the future.”
The Comets took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, with Andrew Boudreau leading off with a base hit to left field before Balthazor hit an RBI single to left field. Balthazor then crossed home plate on a Tyler Pelehowski groundout.
Ecker reached base on an error with one out in the bottom of the first inning before McClure sent him home with a line-drive base hit to center field.
In the top of the third inning, Austin Boudreau hit a two-RBI triple to right field for Central before crossing home plate on a sacrifice fly ball hit to left field hit by Jack Jarvis.
Krumwiede led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double to left field and Jarboe got on base with an infield single before Quinn sent both runners home with a line-drive base hit to center field.
Balthazor led off the top of the fifth inning with a single to left field before scoring on a wild pitch to extend Central's lead to 6-3.
Jason Kelly singled with one out in the top of the sixth inning, but was caught stealing second base by a throw from catcher Jaxson Coplea to second-baseman Drake Schrodt. 
After the top of the sixth inning, Krumwiede, PBL's starting pitcher, was relieved on the mound by Humes. Krumwiede finished his outing allowing six runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and one walk while striking out three batters through six innings.
Jarboe led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a base hit to left field. With two outs, Humes doubled to left field to send Jarboe across home plate.
With Humes -- who earned the win on the mound as he allowed one unearned run on one hit and no walks with one strikeout -- pitching, Andrew Boudreau reached base on an error and Austin Boudreau was hit by a pitch before Andrew Boudreau scored on a line-drive single to right field hit by Pelehowski.
On that hit, however, Austin Boudreau was tagged out by Dalton Busboom on a pickle between second and third base. Jarvis grounded out to Humes for the third out of the top of the seventh inning.
“If we just keep playing hard and keep doing things the right way, the scoreboard's going to take care of itself, and we did that all night long," Niebuhr said.
PBL 8, Clifton Central 7
CC 203   010   1   -- 7   8   3
PBL 100   201   4   -- 8  13  2
W -- Keyn Humes, IP, H, R, 0 ER, K, 0 BB. L -- Matt Balthazor, 0.1 IP, 2 H, ER, K, BB.
Clifton Central (14-7, 10-3) -- Andrew Boudreau 1-4, 3 R. Matt Balthazor 3-4, RBI, 3 R. Austin Boudreau 1-3, 3B, 2 RBIs, R. Tyler Pelehowski 1-4, 2 RBIs. Jack Jarvis RBI. Jason Kelly 2-3. 
PBL (18-8, 12-1) -- Mason Ecker 1-4, 2 R. Jaxson Coplea 2-4, R. Ben McClure 2-4, 2B, 2 RBIs. Gavin Coplea R. Keaton Krumwiede 1-3, 2B, 2 R. Ben Jarboe 2-4, 2 R. Tommy Quinn 2-4, 3 RBIs. Trey VanWinkle 2-4, RBI. Keyn Humes 1-1, 2B, RBI.
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports


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