MONMOUTH, Ill. — When a three-run lead evaporated during Monmouth United’s half of the fifth inning Wednesday, the Central baseball players didn’t fret.
They simply regained the lead in their next at-bat with a three-run outburst.
When that advantage vanished as well, no one panicked this time either..
The Panthers answered with another three-run rally and didn’t forego their edge again, working around a two-out single in the bottom of the seventh to put their stamp on a 10-8 victory in the Class 1A sectional semifinals.
“It just kept going back and forth,” said Central coach Jordan Tenhouse, whose team will play host to Havana at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the sectional championship. “Our guys wouldn’t give in.”
Blake Eyler’s bulldogged attitude led the way.
The senior right-hander handcuffed United for four innings, allowing one run and carrying a 4-1 lead to the fifth. However, five walks and two singles led to four runs before the Panthers recorded an out. Eyler got out of the inning allowing just one more tally.
“We knew that their lineup was good,” Tenhouse said. “Their Nos. 1-6 can all mash the baseball.”
Eyler allowed just seven hits before getting pulled after hitting his pitch limit after 5.2 innings. He struck out seven.
“He moved the ball around and kept them off-balance,” Tenhouse said. “They hit the ball hard at times, but he pitched to contact well. He was as efficient as he’s been all year.”
Even as hit pitch count rose and his control waned, he didn’t want taken out of the game.
“Every time I called time just to settle him down, he wanted to send me back to the dugout,” Tenhouse said. “I had to tell him, ‘We’re just giving you a little breather. I’m not taking you out.’”
In the sixth inning, Tenhouse had no choice but to pull him. Steven Miller recorded the final four outs to earn the victory, allowing one hit and striking out one.
“He told me from the get-go he wanted the ball if Blake couldn’t go the distance,” Tenhouse said.
In the top of the sixth, the Panthers (12-6) used a single from Eyler, a groundout from Dylan Dickhut and a single from Mitchell Meier to plate three runs. In the seventh, Eyler’s RBI single capped a three-run rally.
“The guys just played aggressive and were swinging early in the count,” Tenhouse said. “It was good to see how much energy we played with.”
Eyler finished 3 for 5 with a double and three RBIs, while Dylan Dickhut was 2 for 5 with three RBIs. Roman Adcox and Peyton Clampitt each had two hits as well.