EUREKA — With clean defense and quality pitching, the Eureka baseball team picked up a 5-2 home-opening win over Knox at Henry Sand Field on Wednesday afternoon.
Between Greg Cluskey (East Peoria, Ill./Metamora), David Throw (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove), Nathan Garard (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) and Mason Diederich (Washington, Ill./Washington), the Eureka pitching staff limited Knox to two runs on six hits.
Cluskey only gave up one run on four hits and three walks in five innings, and struck out seven. However, the game was tied when Throw took over in the sixth, giving the EC junior right-hander a no-decision.
Throw pitched two innings of hitless ball, struck out three, only walked one and eventually collected the win after EC took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The defense, meanwhile, only committed one error and it didn't even happen until the eighth.
Center fielder Kyle Christman robbed Kobe Shutter at the fence in the deepest part of the field in the first inning, and second baseman Jake Carter (Carlinville), shortstop Mike Redmond (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) and first baseman Nick Havlin (Carlinville, Ill./Carlinville) turned a double play to end the eighth.
The Red Devils only notched four hits on the day, but they were able to consistently put the ball in play, leading to four Knox errors. They also forced Knox into its bullpen early. By the end of the game, the Prairie Fire had used seven pitchers.
Eureka first got on the board in the second inning after Noah Harlan (Knoxville, Ill./Knoxville) reached on an error that allowed Carter to score from second.
Knox answered in the top of the fifth after Matthew Shover led off the inning with a double, and Charlie Gibbons drove him home with a double in the next at-bat.
The Red Devils regained the lead with a pair of runs off two hits in the sixth. Diederich delivered a perfect RBI bunt single down the first-base line, then Harlan singled to make it 3-1.
In the seventh, EC tacked on two more by way of a fielder's choice RBI for Carter and an RBI sacrifice fly by Diederich.
The Prairie Fire threatened a little bit in the ninth, getting a run back on an RBI sac fly by Matthew Shover, but Diederich ended it with back-to-back strikeouts.
It was the Red Devils' second home-opening win of the past three years under head coach Jerry Rashid.
Eureka (4-3) has a four-game series against Wisconsin-Platteville scheduled in Memphis, Tennessee, this weekend.
The Red Devils are slated to play at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday.