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updated: 4/22/2014 10:54 PM

St. Francis finds a way to win

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By Jacob Onak
Daily Herald Correspondent

The first and second games of the Wheaton Academy-St. Francis series definitely had one thing in common -- a narrow St. Francis victory.

On Monday the Spartans beat the Warriors 8-6 while the second game on Tuesday at Wheaton College was much more of a pitchers' duel with St. Francis winning the Suburban Christian Conference game 1-0.

"Pitching was dominant today," Spartans coach Rich Janor said. "Pitching and defensive-type game, which is to be expected when you got two good teams on a cold day… . Wheaton Academy is a good team, so we're glad to sweep the series."

Spartans starting pitcher Matt Kelly and Wheaton Academy starter Austin Ebeling came out and went right to work for their teams.

Ebeling allowed a hit and a walk in the top of the first but denied Spartans hitters any further opportunity to get on base until the top of the fourth.

With the game scoreless Brett Whelton came up and got his second hit off of Ebeling to reach first base, but pinch-runner TJ Jackson was caught stealing. Ebeling then walked Chrisitan Kuemka, gave up a single to Chris Smith to put runners on first and second and struck out Jack Ciombor.

Ebeling then mishandled a grounder from Nick Dama to load the bases with two outs. St. Francis's Jake Radel then stepped up and ripped a shot to third base, but a wild throw allowed Radel to take first and score Kuemka.

"Maybe our kids aren't used to playing on (turf), but more of (the errors) are mental mistakes," Wheaton Academy coach Brad Byrne said. "It's how they approach the ball, how they come to it, the angles they take. Some of the things were just mental mistakes."

Kelly was perfect for the Spartans (11-5, 5-1) until he gave up a single in the bottom of the third.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Warriors (6-10, 1-6) gave him some trouble, loading the bases with two outs. But Kelly came up big, striking out his counterpart Ebeling. It was the last action Kelly saw.

In the bottom of the fifth, Ryan Hodgett came into the game with just a 1-0 cushion, but the score line didn't faze the sophomore. Hodgett didn't allow a hit, striking out four in three innings of work to keep it 1-0 Spartans, earning the save.

"I just kind of picked up my team, obviously," Hodgett said. "We didn't have the bats. I knew I could trust my defense even though we had one error. That's not common for us. … I knew all I had to do was throw strikes."

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