BUCKLEY — They share a baseball field and the top two spots in the Eastern Illinois Baseball League for the summer of 2018.
On Sunday afternoon, the Royal Giants proved to the Gifford-Flatville Giflats they were just a little bit better on that day, winning an 11-9 decision over the top team in the league. The jamboree win improved the Royals’ record to 13-8, while the Giflats slipped to 15-6 on the year.
The Giflats will enter the E.I. League playoff tournament with the top seed and home field advantage throughout. The game was played at the Eastern Illinois Baseball League Jamboree, which was held at Scheiwe Field in Buckley. It featured a full day of baseball with all six teams competing against each other in three games.
"This was a big win for our confidence," Giants head coach Tim Dillman said. "Our offense had been struggling the last few weeks so we took a little batting practice in the middle of the week. It was nice to score some runs as we enter the tournament."
Ironically, both teams call Franzen Field in Gifford home, and details are currently being worked out on who will play when.
In the wild contest, Nick Bates dashed home with the game-winning run. After Bates had singled to open the inning, he stole second and advanced to third on a bad throw. He would then score on Nick Meredith’s base hit to right field.
Royal would add an insurance run in the top of the top of the ninth on another play, which once again included stealing bases. Roberto Gonzalez, the third batter of the inning, singled to right field with two outs. He moved over to third when Thomas Wolken, a Rantoul native, was hit by a pitch. On the fourth ball delivered to Nick Bates, Gonzalez dashed home on that passed ball. Wolken tried advancing to third on the pitch but was nailed at third base.
"Gifford-Flatville has a great offensive team," Dillman said. "The best in the league. I figured they would score a ton of runs. I was not even comfortable when we had a five-run lead. I knew it would not end that way. It would be much closer than that at the end."
Dillman could not have been more right. At the end of the game, the Giflats were still like the proverbial bull, charging away. They scored their ninth and final run of the game when Cade Sestak, who had singled to right to start the inning, scored on a wild pitch. Sestak had stolen second and advanced to third on a passed ball.
The Giflats scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and knotted the game up, 8-8. The bottom of the sixth inning started with walks issued to Mike Plecki, Kaleb Denault and Storm Joop. The three would all eventually score. Sestak smacked a sacrifice fly to left field, and Plecki scored. Dan Plecki, the player-manager of the team, smacked a double to deep left field. The first baseman drove home Denault with the hit.
The two runs, and subsequent runs, prompted Royal to make a pitching change and bring in Isaiah Robles. A single to shallow center plated Joop, and Dan Plecki would score on an errant throw to tie the score.
Each team had 11 hits in the contest. For Gifford-Flatville, Sestak, Dan Plecki, Josh Oliveras and Matt Banaitis each had two hits. Each player also drove home one run. For Royal, Adam Carver had three hits, while Wolken and Gonzalez each had a pair of hits. Wolken and Gonzalez each drove home two runs.
Each team used six pitchers with no hurler going more than two innings.
"I think both teams would have taken different strategies into that game if it would have mattered in the standings. Both teams decided to get all of their pitchers some work instead of going with their best for more innings," Dan Plecki said. "We made quite a few errors early, which didn't help our cause. Even being down by five runs early in the game, we were never out of the fight.
"It was fun to see both teams go out and compete despite the result of the game not affecting the standings heading into the tournament."
At press time, the playoff game times had yet to be posted. What was known is that both teams would host a game at Franzen Field. firstname.lastname@example.org