Baseball: Bartlett sweeps West Chicago, takes UEC lead

Bartlett didn’t exactly win the Upstate Eight Conference baseball title these last two days, but the Hawks certainly took two giant steps toward a league crown.

Trailing front-running West Chicago heading into the week, Bartlett knocked off the Wildcats 10-0 on Tuesday to complete an impressive two-day, two-game sweep to move into first.

The Hawks (21-7, 12-3), who won on their home field 9-1 on Monday, batted around in the first inning the next day while taking a 4-0 lead, which was more than enough for ace Brenden Campbell, who blanked the Wildcats in the 5-inning win to improve to 5-1 on the spring.

Campbell also did some damage at the plate, singling in the big first inning and then belting a 2-run home run over the wall in center field as the visitors built a 7-0 lead after two frames.

“I felt like I threw well, attacking with the fastball well,” said the senior, who now has four homers this year. “I’m still trying to get my curveball more consistent and my changeup, but I just want to attack with the fastball and get ahead in the count. I feel like I can let them hit it because I have the defense behind me.”

Bartlett coach Chris Baum, who has leaned on Campbell’s strong right arm for three seasons now, was not too surprised to see him come up big again Tuesday.

“He’s been doing this since he’s been a sophomore. He’s our horse … you know exactly what you’re going to get every time,” Baum said. “We were down two games and we had to come out and win both of these games and I think we did it in a fashion that we were confident we could do it in.”

Campbell’s strong effort on the mound followed up a 6-plus inning solid effort by Ryan Renella in Monday’s defeat of West Chicago.

“It was great,” Hawks catcher Alex Bihun said of the last two days. “We’re riding high. We’re hitting the ball well and we’re pitching well. Ryan [Renella] threw a great game yesterday … the staff has been pitching real well lately.

“We’re heating it up right when we need to heading into playoffs and late in the conference when we need to win games.”

Bihun had an odd night at the plate, not swinging at a single pitch but reaching base four times on walks, two of which led to runs. Bartlett had four hits in the first, including a two-run double by Austin Daubenmire, but also took advantage of three free passes.

West Chicago coach TJ Nall won’t let these two games spoil what has been a great spring so far. His 12-8 squad won 10 of 11 conference games before Monday and is still right in the thick of the race.

“It’s been a fun season. This is probably the most fun we’ve had in my eight years here,” Nall said. “We struggled the last two days here and we’ll try and right the ship, but the Heath brothers [Brandon and Tyler] have been playing their tails off and [Kyler] Campbell behind the plate’s been great. Really, it’s been a team effort. Everybody’s bought in and everybody understands what we’re trying to do. It’s been amazing.”

The Wildcats have a big two-game set with South Elgin this week, but will need a little help if they’re to retake the Hawks after these past two games.

  Bartlett’s Colin Swalley tries to make a play on a West Chicago ground ball in a baseball game in West Chicago on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. John Starks/
  West Chicago’s Drew Zeman pitches against Bartlett in a baseball game in West Chicago on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. John Starks/
  Bartlett’s Dylan Tornero scores against West Chicago in a baseball game in West Chicago on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. John Starks/
  Bartlett’s Brandon Pelz slides safely into second base as West Chicago’s Rafael Herrera Mota sweeps down with the tag in a baseball game in West Chicago on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. John Starks/
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