Aeilts, Central hit their stride

Aeilts, Central hit their stride

MAHOMET — The Central Baseball Express continued charging down the path of success Wednesday night.

The latest stop was Mahomet-Seymour High School, where the Maroons derailed the regional bid of Rantoul, 8-0, in a Class 3A semifinal.

“We played well in all phases,” Central’s John Staab said.

Sophomore Joe Aeilts broke an 8-year-old school record for single-season hits. He had two, giving him 62. The first was a run-scoring single that lifted him into a tie with Mitch Kresca. The second was an infield dribbler he beat out in the sixth.

“It wasn’t my best hit of the season, but it will probably stick in my mind for that reason,” Aeilts said.

He’s not a numbers guy.

The record, he said, “is definitely an honor, especially in such a historic program as Central’s, but with all the things the team has done this season, things happen. It’s never about hits with me. It’s about quality at-bats.”

And, playing the game.

“We’re a bunch of guys who love to play baseball,” Aeilts said. “We have a saying before we take the field, ‘We get to play baseball today.’ ”

Starting pitcher Phillip Swartz (9-0) yielded a double to the first Rantoul batter he faced and also issued the lone walk he gave in five innings. The inning ended with the first of Central’s two double plays.

“That double play was the key,” Aeilts said. “It set the tone. They got a good hit, but we bounced right back.”

The double play went from second baseman Jacob Snider (who later turned an unassisted double play) to shortstop Nicholas Brunson and to first baseman Matthew Brown.

Central took the lead with a three-run second. Brunson drove in the run that Swartz and relievers Zach Dorner and Tanner Gordon would need.

“Snider and Brunson have been huge for us up the middle this year,” Staab said.

Luke Beesley had three hits for the Maroons. Aeilts and Snider each had two hits.

Staab plans on sending senior Alec Altmyer (8-2) to the mound in Saturday’s regional championship game. The Maroons will face the winner of Thursday’s Centennial/Mahomet-Seymour semifinal showdown. Both schools have at least 20 wins this season.

“Whoever it is, it’ll be a dogfight,” Staab said. “They’re both playing well.”

Aeilts will take his chances with the lineup Central will field.

“One through nine (in the batting order), we have to be one of the toughest teams to face,” he said.

The first seven hitters in Staab’s order all had at least one hit against the Eagles (19-14).

Wednesday’s shutout was the team’s eighth. Swartz has been a part of three.