PAXTON -- Sunday's Eastern Illinois Baseball League action included a rematch of last year's league tournament championship series.
The Paxton Swedes entered that tournament as the fifth seed in a six-team league before losing in three games to the Royal Giants.
“We got so close last year. We want to make a run at the end of the year. I think we’ve got the guys to do it," Swedes manager Mark Prina said.
Though a 8-2 loss to Royal in game one and a 3-0 defeat in game two dropped Paxton's record to 0-4, Prina said he is being patient.
“We’ll only get better. I told the guys to keep their heads up. This is just the first weekend. We’ve got a lot of baseball left this summer," Prina said. "Our goal is to be good at the end of the year, like we were last year. If we can win some games in the middle of the year, we can get ourselves a better seed in the tournament.
"That’ll help, but right now, it’s good for some of the guys who haven’t played all spring to get back on it, to get some pitches to see, to get some of the bats together and see balls in the field. It’s not an easy game, especially when you haven’t played in a while.”
The Swedes scored their lone two runs of the doubleheader in the sixth inning of game one.
Tanner Regez led off the inning with a single and Curtis Norman was hit by a pitch. After Hunter Phelps singled to load the bases, Regez crossed home plate as Stohne Stetler hit into a double play.
In the next at-bat, Connor Allen sent Norman home with a double.
Regez finished the game hitting 2-for-5 while Stetler, Noah Darr and Jake Hensgen each went 2-for-4. In game two, Royal's Colton Carr pitched a two-hit shutout, striking out nine batters and walking one.
The Swedes were playing without some of their hitter, Prina said.
“When we get those guys back, that will help shore up our defense a little bit and make our lineup a lot deeper," Prina said. "I think we’re good enough to go on a run where we can win eight, nine or 10 games in a row in this league.”
In game one, Will Horve struck out 12 batters and walked one while allowing four runs on seven hits through eight innings for the Swedes in a losing effort.
In the second contest, Jake Hensgen allowed three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts as he pitched a complete game.
“That’s going to win a lot of games in this league," Prina said. “Jake pitched a really good game, too. We pitched the ball really well.”
In the second inning of game one, Thomas Wolken reached base on the first of five errors committed by the Swedes' defense -- and the first of two during that inning -- before scoring a run.
Cody Flowers hit a leadoff double in the first inning before another error was committed by Paxton. Flowers would eventually score a run.
Blake Hoveln belted a leadoff single in the top of the fifth inning and Roberto Gonzalez doubled before each players crossed home plate. The Swedes committed an error during that inning as well.
“We could have very easily have been winning 2-1 and saved our starter some pitches," Prina said. "(Horve) probably would have gotten through all nine innings that way. We decided that we weren’t going to push the issue.
We wanted to win, but in the big picture, these games aren’t as important as being healthy by the end of the year and making a run at the tournament.”
With Mario Renteria relieving Horve, the Giants (2-2) scored four runs in the ninth inning of game one, including two-run double by Hoveln, an RBI double by Wolken and a run-scoring single by Jake Cribbett.
Hoveln hit an RBI double in the first inning of game two. In the second inning, Casey Dillman drove in two runs with another double to extend Royal's lead to 3-0.
The losses to the Giants came only one day after Paxton was swept in its season-opening doubleheader by the Buckley Dutchmasters.
“We played two good teams. That’s going to happen. Give credit to the two teams they played – they beat us – but I think we can play with anybody, and we didn’t have everybody," Prina said. “It’s a tough weekend having to play four games, but everybody’s in the same boat. That’s not an excuse for us, but we just weren’t able to get our complete team here this weekend. We did a decent job of piecing it together and competing.”
The Swedes will face Game Seven Legacy at High Desert Field in Lexington at 1 p.m. next Sunday.
“I’m not disappointed at all," Prina said. "I’d love to win, but that wasn’t the biggest thing this weekend. It was just getting out and playing, seeing what we’ve got. I saw a lot of good things. Obviously, we need to play better defense. We need to put the ball in play more. We know that, but that’ll come. It’s disappointing not to get at least one or two wins this weekend, but in the big picture, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Royal Giants 8, Paxton Swedes 2
ROY 011 020 004 -- 8 10 1
PAX 000 002 000 -- 2 10 5
W -- Evan Wilson, 8 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 6 K, 3 BB. L -- Will Horve, 8 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 12 K, BB.
Royal -- Cody Flowers 4-4, 2B, 2 R. Roseman R. Blake Hoveln 2-5, 2B, 2 R. Roberto Gonzalez 1-4, 2B, R. Thomas Wolken 1-4, 2B. Jake Cribbett 2-4.
Paxton -- Noah Darr 2-4, 2B. Tanner Regez 2-5, R. Curtis Norman R. Hunter Phelps 1-3. Stohne Stetler 2-4, 2B. Connor Allen 1-2, 2 BB. Jake Hensgen 2-4.
Royal Giants 3, Paxton Swedes 0
ROY 120 000 0 -- 3 4 1
PAX 000 000 0 -- 0 2 0
W -- Colton Carr 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 9 K, BB. L -- Jake Hensgen, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 K, 5 BB.
Royal -- Roseman 1-3, 2B. Blake Hoveln 1-4, 2B. Rigsby R. Carr 1-3, R. Casey Dillman 1-2, 2B.
Paxton -- Tanner Regez 1-2. Hensgen 1-3.