BELLEVILLE — Jake Garella is no stranger to regional walk-off heroics.
On Wednesday, Garella's RBI single in the bottom of the seventh against the Collinsville Kahoks capped a 7-6 comeback victory for the Edwardsville Tigers in the Class 4A Belleville West Regional semifinals.
It was the second regional walk-off winner for the talented senior. Rewind to May 31, 2014 — Garella's sophomore season — when he poked a RBI single to right field off Alton phenom Bryan Hudson to secure a 1-0 regional-championship win for the Tigers.
Hudson is now tearing it up in the minors for the Chicago Cubs, while Garella is still carving up pitchers on local baseball fields. Wednesday he reached base five times, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and 3 RBIs. For the season he's hitting a smooth .558 with 4 homers and 33 RBIs. He also has a team-leading 14 doubles.
Choosing between his two walk-offs was easy Wednesday afternoon for Garella.
“This one was a little more fun right now, just because it's in the moment,” he said. “Also, it was such a big deficit. We came back and it wasn't just me, it was everyone. We fought so hard and I'm so proud of them.”
EHS head coach Tim Funkhouser said of Garella, “He deserves everything he gets because he goes about his business the right way every day. He continues to follow the process daily, doesn't get too high, too low and boy that's a great example. He's been with us for four years and we've been really blessed to have him around us.”
EHS fought back from a 6-0 deficit. Collinsville charged out to a 6-0 lead after two innings, but the Tigers scored once in the third, four times in the sixth and twice in the seventh to improve to 29-7 on the season. The Kahoks close their campaign at 17-16.
Funkhouser was proud to see the determination out of his squad.
“I thought we had runners on base throughout the game and we just didn't have that bigger hit. We needed that knockout punch,” Funkhouser said. “We were seeking that and that's all you can do is battle at-bats.
“Credit our guys, in spite of the start we had and giving away some freebies early, we just kept battling at-bats and didn't have too many giveaways. We showed a lot of resiliency and I'm really proud of how our guys continue to compete.”
In addition to his heroics at the plate, Garella earned the win on the mound. He tossed 6.1 innings in relief of starter Trey Riley, who had control issues on Wednesday.
Riley walked three, hit a batter, allowed two hits and five runs, four earned, in 0.2 innings. Garella surrendered a RBI single to Adam Pashea with the bases loaded when he entered and a one-out error on Jordan Reichert's grounder came back to haunt him in the second inning. Reichert came around to score to extend Collinsville's lead to 6-0.
“Trey's going to be back, he'll be fine. I have full faith in him,” Garella said. “We're going to have a great run.”
After the dust settled on the early woes, the Tigers began to battle. Collin Clayton coaxed a two-out walk in the third and later scored on a Kahoks' error to cut it to 6-1.
EHS stranded two runners in the third, two more in the fourth and left the bases loaded in the fifth before finally breaking through in the sixth.
Cole Hansel drew a leadoff walk from Collinsville starter Parker Marchbanks and scored on a double by pinch hitter Kade Burns to make it 6-2. A two-out error on Cole Cimarolli's grounder kept it alive and Garella doubled to plate Burns and Cimarolli to dwindle the deficit to 6-4.
A walk to Joel Quirin brought Tyler Stamer up, who singled to left to score Garella and get it to 6-5.
Marchbanks was lifted for Lucas Ward who got a ground out to get out of the inning.
After Garella struck out the side in the top of the seventh, it set the stage for the Tigers to rally their revival in the home half of the inning.
Hansel reached on a leadoff error off of Reichert, who entered in relief, to start the bottom of the seventh. After Joe Wallace bunted him to second, Hansel scored on another Collinsville error on Andrew Yancik's ground ball, to tie it 6-6. Cimarolli drew a two-out walk and he and Yancik stole second and third. It left first base open, but the Kahoks chose to pitch to the dangerous Garella, who stroked a line drive into right field for the winner.
Overall Collinsville committed five errors, which assisted in Edwardsville's resurgence.
“We've got to finish. We didn't finish all the way through,” Kahoks' head coach Pete Trapp said. “I still can't be more proud of my guys today and the four years with this senior group. I'm going to miss them tomorrow and the next day and next spring and the following spring. They mean a lot to me. We went through a lot together.”
As for Garella, he's just happy to be blessed with the opportunity for two regional walk-off winners in his prep career. He's even happier to share it with his teammates.
“I'm so lucky to have the opportunity just to get that chance,” Garella said. “It's so fun coming out here and playing with these guys. We didn't want it to end, as you can see. We fought and we prevailed and it's a great feeling.”
Edwardsville now awaits the winner between Belleville East and Belleville West on Thursday. The Tigers will meet one of them at 11 a.m. Saturday at West in the regional championship game. They will be going for their 31st regional title. They hold the state record for regionals.
CLASS 4A BELLEVILLE WEST REGIONAL
EDWARDSVILLE 7, COLLINSVILLE 6
Kahoks 510 000 0 — 6 5 5
Tigers 001 004 2 — 7 8 4
Edwardsville (29-7) — Cole Cimarolli 1-3 2 BBs SB, Jake Garella 4-5 2 2Bs 3 RBIs, Tyler Stamer 2-4 2B RBI, Kade Burns 1-1 2B RBI.
WP — Garella 6.1IP 3H 1R 0ER 2BB 7K
Trey Riley 0.2IP 2H 5R 4ER 3BB 2K 1HBP
Collinsville (17-16) — Parker Marchbanks 1-3 SAC, Jordan Reichert 2-3 IBB SB RBI, Jon Kovach 1-3 BB, Sam Vlasak 0-2 BB RBI, Adam Pashea 1-3 RBI.
LP — Marchbanks 5.2IP 7H 5R 1ER 6BB 3K
Lucas Ward 0.1IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 0K
Reichert 0.2IP 1H 2R 0ER 1BB 0K