EDWARDSVILLE — Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.
The Metro East Bears struck quickly and authoritatively Tuesday in their American Senior Legion baseball playoff opener. They came out swinging.
Post 199/126 erupted for five consecutive hits to build a 4-0 lead and blast Belleville, 9-2 in a District 22 postseason game at SIUE’s Roy E. Lee Field. The 16-4 Bears, winning their fifth in succession, play top-seeded Highland at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night at Glik Park.
The double-elimination district tournament continues through Friday or Saturday, with the survivor advancing to next week’s Fifth Division tourney in West Frankfort.
“It was super to come out like that and get a 4-0 lead,” Bears’ manager Ken Schaake said. “That was huge because it took the pressure off our defense.”
Cole Cimarolli singled, Collin Clayton tripled him home, Jake Garella singled in Clayton, Drake Hampton doubled and Tyler Stamer followed with a two-run single in an explosive first inning against Belleville pitcher Tyler Frazier.
“It happens. Everybody has a bad day,” Belleville manager Jonathon Schweppe said of Frazier. “I think he might have thrown too many pitches in the bullpen.”
All figured, the Bears needed just 11 pitches to amass a four-run lead, and they never looked back. Frazier retired only one batter before getting knocked out of the game.
“We came out with a lot better focus,” said Garella, the winning pitcher. Belleville beat Metro East twice during the regular season.
Garella added, “We put some good swings on the ball and we played very well. We were jumping on his (Frazier’s) first pitch and not getting out in front of his curve ball.”
Schaake noted, “Our kids were aggressive, but they didn’t swing at bad pitches. We told them to go after the first good pitch they got.”
Garella chipped in with a run-scoring double in the second inning to make it 5-0. Steven Pattan tripled home a run in the third and scored on Mitchell Krebs’ sacrifice fly. Then Maverick McSparin clouted a mammoth two-run home run in the eighth.
“We need to have everybody contributing like they did tonight,” Schaake said of the 13-hit arsenal. “We can’t get by with just two or three guys carrying us.”
Cimarolli, Garella, Stamer and Pattan all had two hits in the diversified attack. Nine Bears hit safely.
“They (Hilgards) got us twice, so it was nice to get off to that 4-0 start,” Pattan said. “It took all of the pressure off us.”
Pattan, the catcher and No. 8 hitter in the lineup, was in the thick of things.
“I’m definitely seeing the ball a lot better,” he said. “We have a lot of good hitters and everybody in the lineup is capable of driving the ball.”
Meanwhile, Garella limited Belleville to five hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two. Then Drake Hampton and Devin Colley each pitched a hitless inning.
“It was a fun night tonight,” said Garella, a Saint Louis University recruit. “And it helped tremendously when we got that (big) lead. I was going as long as I could pitching.”
Pattan said, “I love working with Jake. He’s a smart guy.”
Schweppe figured the 13-15 Hilgards were in trouble when they fell behind 4-0.
“Garella’s a good pitcher and that made it tough for us,” he said. “Now, we have to win three in a row.”
Belleville is idle Wednesday and faces the Metro-East/Highland loser on Thursday, either in Edwardsville or Highland.
Lefty Brandon Hampton, sporting a 6-0 record, goes for the Bears in their game Wednesday at Highland. Metro East went 2-0 against Highland this season, yet Schaake isn’t putting much stock in previous results.
“We’re in the playoffs now and the slate is clean against everybody,” he said. “We can’t take anything for granted. If we do our best, things will take care of themselves.”
DISTRICT 22 PLAYOFFS
METRO EAST BEARS 9, BELLEVILLE 2
Belleville 001 001 000 – 2 5 1
Metro East 412 000 02X – 9 13 1
Belleville (13-15) – Stephen Toenjes 1-4, Loagn Betz 1-4 2B RBI, Wyatt Parker 1-4 RBI, Tai Kezirian 1-4 RBI, Buddy Gore 1-3. LP – Jake Frazier IP-.1 H6 R-4 ER-4; Kerizian IP-7 H-7 R-5 ER-5 BB-1 K-3; Charles Hubbs IP-.2 H-0 R-0 BB-0 K-0
Metro East Bears (16-4) – Cole Cimarolli 2-5, Collin Clayton 1-5 3B RBI, Jake Garella 2-4 2B RBI-2, Drake Hampton 1-4 2B, Tyler Stamer 2-4 RBI-2, Cole Hansel 1-2, Maverick McSparin 1-1 HR RBI-2, Steven Pattan 2-4 3B RBI, Mitchell Krebs 1-3 RBI. WP – Garella IP-7 H-5 R-2 ER-2 BB-2 K-7; Drake Hampton IP-1 H-0 R-0 BB-0 K-0; Devin Colley IP-1 H-0 R-0 BB-0 K-1