Phillip Diehl had plenty of room to work with on the mound Thursday, just as his Wabash Valley teammates are starting to create more room at the top of the Great Rivers Athletic Conference baseball standings.

The southpaw came within one pitch of a shutout as WVC routed Rend Lake, 11-1, in the first game of a 3-game GRAC series which now shifts to Rend Lake for a doubleheader today (Friday) starting at noon.

Now 14-5 in the league, Wabash Valley’s GRAC lead remained at three games after second-place Kaskaskia (11-8) defeated Southeastern, 7-1.

Diehl, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Cincinnati, allowed only four hits in the Warriors 7-inning victory, striking out nine and walking two in a 110-pitch start.

“He did a nice job of controlling the strike zone,” said WVC coach Rob Fournier. “I didn’t think he had his best stuff today but he competed.”

Diehl said he “threw a lot of fastball-changeup combinations, moving the ball in and out and letting my defense help me out.”

WVC, which scored in every inning except one, did plenty to support Diehl, collecting 10 hits including two home runs: a two-run blast in the first inning by Tim Barry and a leadoff home run by Dane Giesler in the fourth.

At the plate, Warrior hitters “took what the pitcher was giving us. He was working away and we did a good job of taking some walks and getting some stolen bases,” Fournier said. “Just playing our game.”

Barry and Rey Perez had two hits. Giesler and Manuel DeJesus each reached base four times

Even with the magic number to clinch the  GRAC title down to three, Fournier refuses to get too comfortable.

“In this conference, anytime you can win the first game of a series, we’re excited,” Fournier said. “But it means nothing if we don’t take care of business (today).”

NOTES: John A. Logan, which defeated Lake Land 10-4 Thursday, is tied with Kaskaskia for second in the league at 11-8... WVC is now 33-11 overall with a five-game winning streak... Only GRAC series left is against Southeastern April 24-26.