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Trey Martin holds key to Wheaton’s playoff hopes

WheatCollege Baseball vs Edgewood College (WI) 9-6

Wheaton College Baseball vs Edgewood College (WI), 9-6

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Updated: April 30, 2014 9:57PM

The baseball race in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin is entering its last weekend with four teams fighting for the lead. North Park and Augustana are 12-6 in conference play, and North Central and Illinois Wesleyan are at 11-7.

On the fringes of the race is Wheaton (20-16, 9-9), which is hoping to sneak into the four-team playoffs. The Thunder plays three games against North Park this weekend, one Friday in Chicago and two Saturday in Carol Stream.

If Wheaton is to make a move, one key will be pitcher/first baseman Trey Martin (4-3, 2.06 ERA), who had his 29-inning scoreless streak ended in a 7-5 loss Saturday to North Central. Before that, Martin had been CCIW pitcher of the week three times in a row and had been named to the team of the week twice.

‘‘He is a tremendous part of our team,’’ Wheaton coach Matt Husted said. ‘‘The streak he went on, he was just dominant, a shutdown guy. When you have a guy who is just dominant, it gives you confidence and allows you to relax a little bit and play a little better.

‘‘This is my second year in the program, and he was injured last year. So I hadn’t really ever seen what I’ve witnessed over those three weeks.’’

Martin’s streak included a 13-strikeout, two-hit, 1-0 victory against Illinois Wesleyan on April 5 and a 15-strikeout, two-hit, 3-0 victory against Millikin on April 19. He also is hitting .341 with a team-leading six home runs and 33 RBI as the Thunder’s cleanup hitter.

Scouts have taken a look at Martin and fellow senior Evan Rahn (5-4, 2.42 ERA). Michael Kaufman (1-1, 3.70 ERA) was the CCIW rookie of the year last season, but he has been hampered by injuries this season.

Husted said he thinks his team might have what it takes to make a postseason run if it can get into the CCIW playoffs.

‘‘There’s one scenario that gets it done, and that’s us winning all three games [against North Park],’’ Husted said. ‘‘It’s a challenge. It’s a big task, but that’s just what we’ve got to do.’’

North Central strong at Drake

In a strong field that featured NCAA Division I athletes, the North Central men’s track team earned two-second place finishes last week at the Drake Relays in Des Moines.

On Thursday, John Crain was second in the 5,000-meter run for the second consecutive year. His personal-best time of 14 minutes, 5.06 seconds trailed only Purdue’s Matt McClintock (14:01.33). North Central’s Troy Kelleher (14:14.19) was third.

On Friday, Crain anchored the distance medley team that also featured Matt Muth, Dionte Hackler and Richard Ruske. The Cardinals’ time of 9:51.97 was less than a quarter-second behind Augustana of South Dakota (9:51.78).

North Central’s Adam Lundquist, Zion Mason, Nick Baumgartner and Kyle Pembrook finished sixth in the shuttle hurdle relay, and the Cardinals’ 1,600-meter team of Hackler, Derek Nelson, Zach Kirby and Mustapha Olaoye placed ninth.

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