JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – J.D. Theile (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) notched a complete game, and the Eureka baseball team picked up its first St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win of the season on Sunday afternoon with a 5-2 victory over Westminster.
Prior to that, the Red Devils nearly came back in the middle game of a three-game series on the neutral grounds of Lenz Field, but Westminster ultimately held on, 6-5.
Eureka is now 1-2 in SLIAC play and 3-3 on the season through six games.
"It's a good win," EC coach Jerry Rashid said. "Win one out of three, and I thought we had a chance if we played a little better at the beginning of game two, I think we could have won two out of three.
"The bottom line is, they had to come back and win the third game, and they did."
Theile held the Blue Jays to two runs on five hits while only walking one and striking out five in nine strong innings. He threw 73 strikes out of 106 pitches as the southpaw improved to 2-0 on the season.
"I felt good out there," he said. "We made a lot of good plays. Really helped me out and helped me keep my pitch count down.
"I thought Coach (Clint) Stroud and (catcher) Dean Moir (Coal City, Ill./Coal City) helped me call a great game, and really kept them off balance. (I) got a lot of rollovers with my cutter, which is what I try to do."
The Blue Jays got on the board first with two runs on two hits in the first inning, and then failed to scratch any more across the rest of the way.
Eureka scored five runs on eight hits without ever scoring more than two per inning.
Mason Diederich (Washington, Ill./Washington) went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the second inning. The Red Devils tied the game two innings later when Moir took advantage of a failed pickoff attempt that allowed him to score.
Then, in the sixth, they took the lead for good when they scored two runs off three hits.
Noah Harlan (Knoxville, Ill./Knoxville) drove in Jake Carter (Jacksonville, Ill./Jacksonville), who led the inning off with a double. Two batters later, Nathan Garard (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) sent Harlan home with an RBI double.
Kyle Christman (Peru, Ill./La Salle-Peru) delivered an RBI single to make it 5-2 in the seventh.
Defense was also key for the Red Devils on Sunday. The team only committed one error and made a variety of sharp plays in the field, including a late-game grab in which Harlan battled a fence and still came up with the ball.
"Our whole left side of the infield was outstanding," Rashid said. "Our infield was good, our outfield was good, and I think anytime you have pitching like J.D. had, and you have good defense behind him, you have a really good chance to be competitive."
In Game 1, the Red Devils fell in a 6-0 hole and didn't get on the board until the seventh inning. But the team did manage to keep things interesting with a four-run seventh inning and made it a one-run game in the eighth.
Garard put EC on the board with an RBI fielder's choice with two on in the seventh inning. Braxten Ary (Green Valley, Ill./Midwest Central) knocked a two-run single, and Mike Redmond (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) scored an unearned run. Ary went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs in the leadoff spot, claiming 3/5 of the Red Devils' hits in the first game.
After Garard was hit by a pitch in the eighth, Tate Stone (Washington, Ill./Washington) came up with his first career RBI double to make it a 6-5 game. That was as close as the Red Devils could get, but it set the tone for team's solid showing in the final game.
"Even with our backs against the wall," Theile said, "we fought until the very end."
On Wednesday at noon, the Red Devils (3-3, 1-2 SLIAC) will be home for the first time for a non-conference matchup against Knox.