EDWARDSVILLE — There was no signs of rust Thursday for the Metro East Bears American Senior Legion baseball team.
The Bears, idle since last Saturday, steamrolled Kirkwood, Mo., 20-0, in a 5-inning game at Hoppe Park. Metro East, which plays the Belleville East High summer team at 5 p.m. Friday at Whitey Herzog Field, improved to 13-4. Kirkwood, a first-year team, dropped to 3-19.
“They are the best team we have played all season,” Kirkwood manager Eric Haines said. “I don’t think we could have brought an All-Star team from our district over here and beaten these guys.”
Post 126/199 was that dominant, thanks to two big innings. The Bears scored nine runs in the third and eight more in the fourth to invoke the mercy rule. Pitchers Chance Foss (three innings) and Maverick McSpain (two innings) combined for a no-hitter.
“The kids played really well tonight and we weren’t trying to run the score up on anybody,” Metro East manager Ken Schaake said. “We need that kind of effort all the time.”
McSparin and Drake Hampton ignited the Bears’ 14-hit attack. McSparin went 3-for-3, reached base 4 times and stroked a two-run double in the fourth. He had two hits in the inning. Hampton was 2-for-4 with a booming 3-run home run in the third, when he had two hits.
“The home run felt pretty good and this win was definitely a confidence booster for us,” Hampton said. “You hate to put 20 runs on another team, but we were trying to get back into the swing of things.”
The lopsided victory and Friday’s game in Belleville figure to be tune-ups for the Bears, eyeing a strong showing in next week’s District 22 playoffs. They meet Belleville at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a 9-inning game at SIUE’s Roy E. Lee Field.
Highland, Metro East and Belleville all finished 2-2 in the 3-team district. Highland, the No. 1 seed — via fewest runs allowed — earned a bye Tuesday and will face the Bears-Belleville winner at 7:30 Wednesday night in Glik Park.
“We hope to keep rolling through,” Hampton said of building some momentum for playoff competition. The Bears won the last year's district championship, the Fifth Division title and finished second in the state finals.
They automatically qualified for the Great Lakes Regional because they served as the host team. The Bears will welcome this year’s regional the first week of August at SIUE. In 2015, Metro East was regional runner-up to Midland, Mich.
Collin Clayton contributed two hits and a pair of RBIs, while Tate Wargo stroked two hits and drove in a run against Kirkwood. Cole Hansel collected a two-run double and Steven Pattan chipped in with two hits. He also knocked in a run.
“It was good just be able to play a game tonight,” McSparin said Thursday, “because we had been off for five or six days.”
Hampton noted, “We wanted to come out and play. It’s never good to have a break like that.”
Prior to last Saturday’s game in Jerseyville, the Bears hadn’t played since Tuesday, June 28. So they could have been a bit out of form, yet they adapted nicely, McSparin said.
“We went back to our mechanics and came up with some hits at key times,” he added.
Come Tuesday, the Bears will begin their second season and they are looking forward to it, especially with ace Jake Garella set for the first game. They want to earn their way into the regional, similar to the way they did it last year.
“We have a little sour taste getting beat a couple of times by Belleville,” McSparin said. “We have to focus on the first game of the district against them.”
Schaake put it this way: “We need to play solid ball and not beat ourselves. If we do that, we will be all right.”
Kirkwood, meanwhile, is striving for improvement and peeking ahead to 2017.
“We’re just trying to get better,” Haines said. “And we’re going to keep plugging away at it.”
METRO EAST BEARS 20, KIRKWOOD 0
Kirkwood 000 00 – 0 0 1
Metro East 129 8X—20 14 1
Kirkwood (3-19) – LP – Seth Winkelman IP-2.1 H-5 R-7 ER-7 BB-4 K-1; Morgan Murphy IP-.2 H-2 R-5 ER-5 BB-3 K-0; Stephen Suntrup IP-1 H-7 R-8 ER-8 BB-3 K-2
Metro East Bears (13-4) – Cole Cimarolli 0-0 RBI-2, Collin Clayton 2-3 RBI-2, Jake Garella 1-3 RBI, Drake Hampton 2-4 HR RBI-3, Chance Foss 1-2 2B RBI, Cole Hansel 1-1 2B RBI-2, Steven Pattan 2-3 RBI. Maverick McSparin 3-3 2B RBI-2, Tate Wargo 2-3 RBI. WP – Foss IP-3 H-0 R-0 BB-1 K-4; McSparin IP-2 H-0 R-0 BB-3 K-2