BY CHAD DARE
The Illini Skateland and Vermilion Chevy A League teams could be taking their battle to a pay-per-view event next week.
That’s because those two teams have played each other four times this season.
Vermilion Chevy won the last two regular-season meetings to claim the regular-season title at the American Legion Youth Baseball program in Danville.
On Thursday, Illini Skateland pulled even with a 11-1 win in A League postseason tournament champion at the Danville Post 210 baseball complex.
“I might need to get with coach (Ryan) Reifsteck about playing one more time,’’ Illini Skateland coach Rob Ruch said. “We’ve had a good group of boys this year. They worked hard all season and we put it together this week, and again tonight against a good Chevy team.’’
Getting even was definitely the focus for the Illini Skateland team.
Jake Stipp, who struck out the final three batters for Vermilion Chevy, admitted getting a title was the goal.
“We feel like we matched up with every team in this league,’’ Stipp said. “We were a little disappointed that we didn’t get first in the regular season — so this was our chance to get a title.’’
Reifsteck said he was really pleased with how his team bounced back after losing its first two games of the season.
“To get first in the regular season and second in the tournament is really a major accomplishment,’’ he said. “All year, our kids have shown up, and worked at getting better.’’
And both coaches pointed out that Thursday’s final score was not indicative of how close these two teams were all year.
But looking at their combined scores in all four games, Illini Skateland scored 24 runs, while Vermilion Chevy finished with 23 runs.
Two big factors for Illini Skateland in the tournament championship was scoring early and Vermilion Chevy being down a couple of players.
“We jumped on them early,’’ Ruch said. “We got some runs on the board and then we had good pitching. We threw strikes and limited their running game.
“If we throw strikes, we can be successful. We tend to catch the ball and we have solid hitting.’’
Stipp played a key role in getting the Illini Skateland offense going.
He went 2-for-2 with a first-inning double and he scored three times.
“At the top of the lineup is where you are supposed to be able to produce runs,’’ Stipp said. “Noah (Ruch) had a really nice rip in that first inning to get Braden (Walters) home after I scored on Braden’s hit.’’
That three-run first inning seemed to set the tone for Illini Skateland, who would add two more in the second, four in third and two in the fourth.
“At this level, if you are the visitor and you are able to score runs in the first inning, it’s a big advantage,’’ said Reifsteck, who was without pitchers Quinn Gard and Cooper Watson. “If we had those guys, I think it would have been a better game, but give all the credit to Illini Skateland, they played great, they hit the ball and we didn’t make enough plays when we needed to make them.’’
Isaiah Ruch and Kameron Bays shared game-high honors with two RBIs each, and Walters was the winning pitcher.
Joey Bunton, who took the loss for Vermilion Chevy, also drove home his team’s only run in the first inning.
Titles were also on the line in B League and C League on Thursday.
Rawhide, the regular-season championship in B League, completed a perfect sweep with its win over Illini Skateland.
It was the same scenario in C League. McDonald’s added the tournament championship to their regular-season title with a win over sixth-seeded Clyde’s Crew, which had scored 44 runs in its quarterfinal and semifinal victories.