EDWARDSVILLE – Drake Hampton energized the Metro East Bears in more than one way Wednesday.
The Alton High graduate smacked a grand slam to cap a six-run seventh and highlight the Bears 13-1 win over Pickerington, Ohio, in their Great Lakes Regional Senior Legion opener.
Yet it was his daring base running that ignited Post 199/126 in an explosive fourth that set the tone for their seven-inning win at SIUE's Roy E. Lee Field. The 18-6 Bears trailed 1-0 when Hampton singled to start the fourth and went to second on Mitchell Krebs’ single.
Hampton then advanced from second to third base on Chance Foss’ fly ball to right field. When the throw to third went awry and Pickerington made another throwing error on the play, Hampton scored and so did Krebs. Metro East went ahead 2-1 and never looked back.
“Drake’s play got us going,” said Bears’ catcher Steven Pattan, who also put a charge in them. He went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs as Metro East struck for a season-high 19 hits. Collin Clayton, Krebs and Hampton all contributed three hits and Hampton knocked in six runs.
Post 199/126 meets 30-7 Beloit, Wis., an 8-0 winner over Shelbyville, Ky., at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Bears’ manager Ken Schaake noted, “Drake is an aggressive player and speed came into play a little bit in this game.”
Hampton said, “I was trying to put some pressure on the defense and the throw wound up hitting me. After that play, it seemed like our energy was higher.”
Winning pitcher Jake Garella pointed out, “Drake is a work horse and he gave it his all.”
Chris Weber, manager of 41-12 Pickerington, figured Hampton’s gutsy dash on the bases inspired the Bears.
“It was a great throw and a great play,” he said. “There were times in the game where the ball didn’t go our way. And they hit the ball while we had some misplays here and there.”
Schaake said the Bears came poised to play following 17 days without a game. Their last game was a 6-3 loss to Highland on July 16 in the District 22 playoffs.
“We really responded, especially after we fell behind 1-0 tonight,” he said. “The attitude was good and we had a lot of hustle on the bases. I was very pleased with our effort.”
Hampton’s seventh-inning slam over the left field fence put an exclamation point on his 3-for-5 night. Schaake, coaching third base, turned him loose on a 3-0 pitch and Hampton responded with his king clout.
“That home run and the one I hit at Hoppe Field are the two hardest balls I have hit this season,” Hampton said. “We really came ready to play tonight and had a fire in our belly.”
Pattan said the Bears didn’t idly sit around during their long layoff.
“We definitely got our reps in and put in some pretty good work,” Pattan said. “Tonight, I was fortunate enough to put the bat on the ball.”
Cole Cimarolli, 2-for-4 with pair of doubles, Garella, 2-for-4 with an RBI and Chance Foss, 2-for-5, joined Hampton, Krebs, Clayton and Pattan in the big hit parade. Metro East scored in only three innings, but that was plenty against the Ohio state champs.
“We came out and stepped up our focus,” Garella said. “We needed to do that because of the level of play in the regional.”
Garella permitted just three hits and a run over six innings. He struck out five and walked two. Storm Coffman pitched a scoreless seventh.
“Jake was doing everything right,” Pattan said of his battery mate.
“Jake pitched a good game and we had everybody contribute up and down the lineup,” he said.
Schaake could start Devin Colley or come back with Coffman against Beloit. Garella now should be available to pitch again this weekend.
“I can come back and start another game and I’m excited about that,” Garella said.
In other first-day action, Bay City, Mich., shaded Madison, Wis., 5-4, and Rockport, Ind., downed Illinois champion Danville, 8-7. The double-elimination tournament continues Thursday with four games. First pitch is at 10 a.m.
The Great Lakes Regional champion advances to the American Senior Legion World Series on Aug. 11-16 in Shelby, N.C. Midland, Mich., won last year’s regional and the Bears finished second at Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
GREAT LAKES REGIONAL
METRO EAST BEARS 13, PICKERINGTON, OHIO 1
Metro East 000 502 6 — 13 19 0
Pickerington 100 000 0 — 1 3 3
Metro East Bears (18-6) — Cole Cimarolli 2-4 2B-2 RBI, Collin Clayton 3-4 RBI, Jake Garella 2-4 RBI, Drake Hampton 3-5 HR RBI-6, Mitchell Krebs 3-5 Chance Foss 2-5, Cole Hansel 0-2 RBI, Steven Pattan 4-4 RBI-2 WP – Garella IP-6 H-3 R-1 ER-1 BB-2 K-5; Storm Coffman IP-1 H-0 R-0 BB-1 K-0;
Pickerington (41-12) — Connor Ayers 1-2 3B, Evan Young 1-3 RBI, Mitch Lohr 1-3. LP – Thomas Greene IP-4.1 H-10 R-5 ER-5 BB-2 K-2; Kyle Gannon IP-2 H-7 R-4 ER-4 BB-0 K-2; A.J. Snyder IP-0.2 H-2 R-4 ER-4 BB-2 K-1