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By TERRY GREENE
Mahomet Citizen sportswriter
With an unbeaten season and an IESA Regional championship on the line, the M-S junior high baseball team got it done when it counted to turn back Paxton-Buckley-Loda 6-5 on September 17 at Mahomet.
The Bulldogs (18-0) will advance to the sectional championship game in Mahomet on Saturday, September 22 at 11:00 a.m. against Danville Southview (6-8).
M-S spotted the Panthers an early 1-0 lead when PBL spanked back-to-back singles to push across an unearned run of off Bulldog southpaw Isaac Bushue.
But the advantage was short-lived as M-S rode base hits from Nick Herrmann and Kyle Shrum, followed by a three-run home run over the left-center field fence by Ryan Harrison to grab a 3-1 lead after one inning. In the bottom of the third inning, the Bulldogs threatened to blow the game open when Noah Steepleton plated two more runs with a sharp single to center field, scoring Bushue and Shrum to give M-S a 5-3 margin.
But the M-S offense stalled and PBL took advantage of some Bulldog defensive lapses to make it a white-knuckle finish. In the top of the 6th inning, two M-S errors and a clean base hit allowed PBL to load the bases with no one out. Before the smoke cleared, the Panthers would string together four more singles to pull even 5-5. In the bottom of the 7th, with two outs and no one on base, the Bulldogs finished what they started.
A sharply hit ground ball by Shrum found a hole between second and short and M-S was in business. A wild pitch moved Shrum to second base and PBL elected to intentionally walk Harrison to set up a force place. But Steepleton spoiled the Panther’s plans with a soft fly ball single in front of the left-fielder to make Bushue and the Bulldogs a 6-5 winner.
Bushue struck out four, walked only one, and scattered 10 hits in the complete game victory. All five PBL runs were unearned. In addition to Harrison’s home run, Steepleton had three hits and Shrum two to pace the M-S attack.
Coach Nic DiFilippo said his team found a way to win on a day when it wasn’t playing its best baseball.
“This team does not give up and it just finds ways to win ball games,” he said. “We made some defensive errors that we have not made all year. The kids never gave up and continued to fight the adversity.”