Paxton Swedes split EI League doubleheader with Game Seven

PAXTON -- Paxton Swedes player/manager Mark Prina said he felt confident going into Sunday's Eastern Illinois Baseball League doubleheader against Game Seven.
“I woke up excited today knowing that we're going to be a factor in the league this year," Prina said. "I don't know if we'll win the league, but we'll be a factor in it this year, and we haven't been a factor in the last five or six years. We're going to be able to compete with anybody in the league week-in and week-out.”
In game one, Prina was proven right to be confident as the Swedes won 12-2 in six innings.
“We had baseball players today. We have college-level baseball players. We have arms. We came out pounding them the first game. That was fun,” Prina said.
After C.J. Falls led off the top of the first inning with a single to left field for Game Seven, and Aron Hopp sent him home with an RBI triple to give his team a 1-0 lead, the Swedes tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning.
Mark Prina walked to lead off the inning for Paxton before Curtis Norman and Hunter Phelps each hit a single to left field to load the bases with one out. Prina crossed home plate for the tying run on a Stohne Stetler groundout.
The Swedes took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning as Phelps singled to right field before scoring on a Stetler double to right field.
“We had some hitters in our lineup today, and that makes a difference," Prina said. "We had some guys who had some really good days. That helps when you can get a lead for your pitcher. He can just throw it and be loose.”
The Swedes took more pressure off their starting pitcher, Colin Sullivan, with eight runs in the fourth inning.
After Jacob Bender, Joe Bagger and Prina each drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out, Marshall Thompson walked to send Hayden Cekander -- a courtesy runner for the catcher Bender -- across home plate. 
Norman then hit a two-RBI double to right field before Phelps sent two more runs home with a single to left field.
After Zak Hartlieb walked and he and Phelps moved into scoring position on a passed ball, they both crossed home plate as Bender reached base on an error. In the next at-bat, Bagger hit an RBI single.
With its eight-run fourth inning, Paxton increased its lead to 10-1. By outscoring Game Seven 2-1 through the next two innings, the Swedes forced a 10-run rule to clinch the game in the sixth inning.
“Honestly, I feel like everybody was just trying to go up and have some fun, see the ball well and make good contact," Phelps said. "I don't think we were trying to end it in that inning, or anything like that. We were just having fun.”
After Thompson reached base on an error, Norman singled to right field and Phelps reached base on a fielder's choice, Hartlieb singled to send Thompson home to make the score 11-2 in the fifth inning.
In the sixth inning, Bagger walked before Prina singled to right field and Thompson hit into a fielder's choice and Norman drew another walk to load the bases. Phelps, a Danville Area Community College player from Oakwood, then capped a 4-for-5 performance with a single that sent Bagger across home plate for the game-clinching run.
“I was hitting the ball well. Switching to wood bats after college is definitely a change, but just coming out here and seeing balls to it is all I can ask for," Phelps said. “Being on this team, in this atmosphere, is feeling good so far. We're off to a good start.”
Norman finished game one hitting 3-for-4 while Bagger went 2-for-2 at the plate. 
On the mound, Sullivan earned his first EI League victory as he struck out three batters and walked one while allowing two runs on four hits through five innings pitched.
“I'm proud of him. He came out and battled,” Prina said.
Following Game Seven's one-run first inning, Sullivan allowed no hits in the second inning, including one strikeout. After Kyle Spencer doubled to left field in the top of the third inning, Hopp and Jon Walters each flied out to Bagger at center field. 
After Austin Pryblinski was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners, Daniel Mendoza hit a fly ball to right field that was caught by Thompson to leave the runners stranded.
In the top of the fourth inning, a diving stop by Norman on a groundout and a diving catch by Bagger on a fly ball to center field helped allow Sullivan to have a 1-2-3 inning.
“We made plays defensively and had guys who can catch the baseball," Prina said.
After Sullivan forced Falls to fly out to Bagger and struck out Spencer to start the top of the fifth inning, Hopp was hit by a pitch and Walters sent him home with a single. After Pryblinski flied out, Sullivan was relieved on the mound by Jake Hensgen in the sixth inning.
Hensgen struck out the final two batters of the top of the fifth inning to leave two runners stranded. 
The Swedes would need Hensgen's relief efforts again in game two, which Paxton lost 5-1.
Cooper Hake, the Swedes' game-two starter, allowed four runs on no hits, five walks and three hit batsmen through two innings pitched. 
“I'm not worried about him. He's a college-level pitcher, but he hasn't pitched this year because he didn't play in college anymore, but he's good. He just didn't have the feel yet. That's why he was a little wild, but I'm very comfortable with running him back out there," Prina said. “Our pitching was good throughout the day, but we walked and hit too many guys early. You can't defend that.”
Cooper Johnson led off the bottom of the third inning with a single before scoring on a two-out base hit by Norman. 
That was the one run scored by Paxton as Game Seven's starting pitcher, Pryblinski, pitched a complete game as he allowed one run on four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts.
“You tip your cap to their pitcher in game two," Prina said. "He was good, and good pitching will beat you.”
Hensgen entered the fourth inning with runners on first and second base before both runners advanced into scoring position via stolen bases. The runners were left stranded, however, as Hensgen struck out three batters.
“He threw well today and got us out of a couple of jams," Prina said.
Mendoza hit an RBI single in the fourth inning before Hensgen was relieved on the mound by Cam Robinson, who struck out eight batters while allowing no runs on one hit and no walks through 3 2/3 innings.
“He got overused in high school this year, so we're going to save him innings," Prina said. "We're probably going to use him in our closer role and get him ready so that's he ready to go come tournament time.”
The Swedes' defense, meanwhile, committed three errors in game two.
“We still need to shore up a little bit. It's going to take me some time to figure out these young kids and how to put the best defensive lineup out there and keep our hitting, too. That's going to be a process that I'm going to have to work on, but these young kids coming are going to play them," Prina said. 
"It's going to be a fun summer, for once, and I think we've got these guys committed for the whole summer. That's the key to everything – they've got to commit and come every week. We've got kids who want to play and are good baseball players with good baseball knowledge. This is going to be fun.”
With the doubleheader split, the Swedes are 3-3 in the EI League
“That's a good team. We're right in the middle of the league right now, which is fine," Prina said. “I'm very pleased. I'm very excited about where this season could go. We're going to show up next week and compete and play our butts off and have fun. I feel pretty confident that this is going to continue throughout the summer and hopefully, for the next several years, because these guys are young.”
The Swedes will host the Buckley Dutchmasters (2-4) in a 1 p.m. doubleheader next Sunday.
“That's going to be fun, like it always is, and for once, I think we'll be able to legitimately compete with them," Prina said. "We'll see how it goes. I know they've struggled to start the season, but I know they'll come out and be ready to go against us. Everybody will have to step it up a notch because it is a rivalry game. That's what makes it fun.”
Game 1
Paxton Swedes 12, Game Seven 2
GAME 100   010   --  2    6    3
PAX 101   811   -- 12  12   1
W -- Colin Sullivan, 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 K, BB. L -- Williamson.
Game 7 -- Falls 1-4. Spencer 1-3, 2B. Hopp 1-2, 3B, RBI. Walters 1-3, RBI. Mendoza 1-3. Wileayer 1-3. 
Paxton -- Mark Prina 1-3, 2 R, 2 BB. Marshall Thompson RBI, R. Curtis Norman 3-4, 2B, 2 RBIs. Hunter Phelps 4-5, 3 RBIs, 2 R. Stohne Stetler 1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs. Zak Hartlieb 1-2, RBIs, R, 2 BB. Jacob Bender 2 R. Joe Bagger 2-2, RBI, 2 R, 2 BB.
Game 2
Game Seven 5, Paxton Swedes 1
GAME 130   100   0   -- 5   2   0
PAX 001   000   0   -- 1   4   3   
W -- Austin Pryblinski, 7 IP, 4 H, R, 8 K, 3 BB. L -- Cooper Hake, 2 IP, 0 H, 4 R, 5 K, 5 BB.
Game 7 -- Mendoza 1-2, 2 RBIs, 2 BB. Uncle 1-2. Walters RBI.
Paxton -- Curtis Norman 1-2, RBI. Hunter Phelps 1-3. Cooper Johnson 1-3, R. Zak Hartlieb 1-1, 2 BB.
Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports


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