EDWARDSVILLE — When opportunity knocked, the Metro East Bears forgot to answer Tuesday.
They overlooked the call and misplaced the memo.
Belleville shaded Post 126/Post 199 by a 4-3 score at SIUE’s Roy E. Lee Field to clinch a share of the American Senior Legion District 22 baseball championship. The Hilgards, who defeated the Bears by the same score twice in less than a week, improved to 9-8 overall and 2-1 in the league.
Metro East, which slipped to 11-4 and 2-2, could have clinched the district title outright had the Bears beaten Belleville. But Metro East couldn’t solve the Hilgards.
“We talked about that we could have won the district title tonight,” Bears’ manager Ken Schaake said. “We played a good game Monday in Highland and had the opportunity to play for first place. Unfortunately, we didn’t come with a lot of intensity.”
And Belleville, using a makeup lineup, prevailed. The Hilgards had only 11 players since 7 others were on vacation, manager Jonathon Schweppe said.
“This is a big win for us and I have to really give it to our guys for stepping up tonight,” he said. “We had some players playing in different positions and Kevin Sisk pitched a heck of a game.”
The Bears were kicking themselves after the Hilgards swept them.
“Right now, we are way behind where we need to be,” Metro East third baseman Drake Hampton said. “We didn’t have enough fire until the end of the game tonight.
“We need to come out with that kind of fire in the first inning.”
Fired-up Belleville can snare the undisputed district championship and the top seed in the league playoffs, provided the Hilgards can win Thursday at Highland. If Highland wins, all three district teams will finish 2-2 in the league and a tie-breaker will have to decide the No. 1 seed for the playoffs that start July 12.
“We will have all of our players back for Thursday’s game,” Schweppe said. Nevertheless, Highland already owns a 6-2 victory over Belleville.
Sisk, a Belleville West High product, scattered five hits and withstood a three-run fourth in posting the win. He struck out one, walked five and scored the tie-breaking run.
It was Sisk leading off the decisive fifth with walk. He stole second, went to third on an infield out and scored on a wild pitch to give Belleville a 4-3 lead. Sisk permitted one walk in both the fifth and sixth innings, but the Bears couldn’t string anything together.
Schweppe said, “We played old-school baseball, tried to manufacture runs and played our hearts’ out.”
Logan Betz’ two-run triple highlighted the Hilgards’ three-run third. Betz, who was 2-for-3 overall, scored on Jake St. Peters’ wild pitch following his three-bagger.
“Betz has really been hitting well,” Schweppe said. “We moved him to the No. 3 hole for this game.”
St. Peters allowed 3 hits and 4 runs in 4.1 innings. He struck out 4 and walked 5. Devin Colley worked the final 2.1 innings, fanning two and not giving up a hit.
“Colley did a really good job,” Schaake said. “St. Peters had two bad innings.”
He noted, “We came back and tied the game in the fourth inning, then we walked a guy to start the fifth and he scored on a wild pitch.”
Catcher Steven Pattan went 2-for-3 and delivered a run-scoring single in the fourth. Chance Foss and Hampton also had RBI singles in that inning. The Bears collected five hits, but made three errors.
“We tried to tell the players that we can’t wait until the end of the game to turn the switch on and get going,” Schaake said. “It has been tough to get in a groove when you are playing about just once a week. We played about every day last season and got in a groove.”
The Bears, who walloped American-National, 11-5, in Tuesday’s first game behind 4-0 Brandon Hampton, will try to get their groove going this weekend in the Southwest Illinois Firecracker Classic.
They are cast in pool play at Jerseyville’s Ken Schell Field. Metro East plays Jerseyville at 10 a.m. Saturday in the opening game of Pool A.
All teams will play two games Saturday. Tourney action continues Sunday and concludes Monday. There’s also pool play at Belleville and Fairview Heights.
The three pool winners, plus a wild card team, advance to the final day of play in Jerseyville.
BELLEVILLE 4, METRO EAST BEARS 3
Belleville 003 010 0 – 4 3 0
Metro East 000 300 0 – 3 5 3
Belleville (9-8, 2-1) — Logan Betz 2-3 3B RBI-2, Nick Nagel 1-3. WP — Kevin Sisk IP-7 H-5 R-3 ER-3 BB-5 K-1
Metro East (11-4, 2-2) — Drake Hampton 1-3 RBI, Chance Foss 1-3 RBI, Steven Pattan 2-3 RBI, Mitchell Krebs 1-3. LP — Jake St. Peters IP-4.1 H-3 R-4 ER-4 BB-5 K-4; Devin Colley IP-2.2 H-0 R-0 BB-0 K-2