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Members of the Peru Senior League baseball team huddle up before their game against Missouri Monday at Washington Park in Peru.
NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
The Peru Senior League baseball team passed one test Monday.
Now comes the hard part today.
After Peru beat Missouri 7-2 Monday in the Central Region Tournament at Washington Park in Peru, the District 20 champions improved to 2-1 overall in the nine-team, round-robin tournament.
Entering Tuesday’s final day of round-robin play, Peru is one of four 2-1 teams battling for the final three semifinal spots.
With Ohio 3-1 and already qualified for Wednesday’s semifinals, Peru, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin are all 2-1.
With Illinois to face 1-2 Iowa and Michigan to meet 1-2 North Dakota, it means that today's 7 p.m. game between Peru and Wisconsin at Dickinson Field in Oglesby will be a crucial contest as the winner will advance into the semifinals and the loser will likely be eliminated.
Wisconsin beat Ohio 3-1 Monday to stay in contention.
“I told the boys before the game that we had to win two games,” Peru manager Ross Weber said. “(Tuesday) is going to be a tough game against Wisconsin. They played a really good game (against Ohio) and they hit really well, so we’re going to have to bring our best and we’re going to have to pitch some good pitchers because if you lose you’re done.”
Following Monday’s victory, Weber said he originally planned to pitch his son, Ross Weber Jr., but after Weber Jr. was brought in twice in relief on Monday, it turned out that Erik Milaicki or another pitcher may get the ball in the crucial game.
“We’re going to pitch the best that we’ve got that is rested,” coach Weber said. “I’m not really sure who it will be.”
Knowing their semifinal berth was on the line, Peru wasted little time scoring on Monday.
In the top of the first inning, catcher Elliot Lewis walked with one out, stole second and scored on Milaicki’s RBI single off Missouri starting pitcher Andrew Faustlin. Two innings later, a two-run single by Milaicki gave Peru a 3-0 lead midway through three innings.
“That’s why we usually take visitors because we’re a good-hitting team,” Weber said of the start. “If the other team scores on you in the first inning, it usually brings the kids down, so it’s really nice to get the early lead. One run, two runs, it doesn’t matter. The kids act differently when you’re ahead.”
Peru broke open the game with a four-run fifth inning against Faustlin to take a 7-0 lead.
“The kid who pitched for them was I think the best pitcher we’ve faced so far,” Weber said. “That kid threw really hard and had good stuff, and I told him that after the game. We weren’t expecting that.”
While Peru’s offense did its damage, Weber relied on a stable of pitchers to keep Missouri’s offense in check.
Weber used five pitchers over the seven innings, including bringing in two pitchers twice.
Missouri scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth, but that was it, even though it left nine runners on base, including four in the first two innings. “Really, we were trying to save pitching because we’ve gotten in trouble a couple of times before,” Weber said. “But by doing what we did, everybody is now available for (Tuesday).”
Milaicki finished with two hits and four RBI, while Ben Bejster and Jack Brady each scored two runs.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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