GODFREY — Taking advantage of opportunities, that was the name of the game Thursday for the Edwardsville Tigers at Alton High School.
The Tigers scored seven runs in two innings and staved off a late push by the Redbirds to win 7-2. The victory avenged a 4-1 loss to Alton on April 5, improving Edwardsville's record to 21-4 overall and 9-2 in the Southwestern Conference. It was the eighth straight win for the Tigers.
The Birds will have to wait for their 20th victory. They dipped to 19-8 overall and 6-4 in league action.
“I think we got a lot better at-bats,” EHS head coach Tim Funkhouser said of Thursday's game compared to the first meeting. “(Jacob) St. Peters (Alton's starter) is a good pitcher and he was just so dominant the first time we faced them and you could tell we got a lot better at-bats than we did previously. I just like the way our guys are competing and the way Andrew Frank was able to deal.”
Jacob St. Peters was the starter for the Redbirds, just like the first time around, but didn't fare quite as well Thursday. He went 3.1 innings, fanning two, walking four, hit a batter and allowed four runs on five hits on 72 pitches.
His counterpart for the Tigers, Andrew Frank, notched the win, tossing six innings. He struck out four, walked two, plunked two more batters, scattered three hits and surrendered two unearned runs on 79 pitches.
“(St. Peters) did not hit his spots like he did the first game,” Alton coach Todd Haug said. “He had a hit batsmen and few borderline calls early that didn't go our way as well. He wasn't quite as sharp and it is what it is. These are teenage boys, we're asking a lot out of them and it doesn't always go your way.”
Frank was happy to get the nod on the hill and the opportunity to get revenge on the rival Redbirds.
“I was excited,” Frank said. “Coach told me I was throwing on Monday and I just got ready and prepared to pitch today.”
Edwardsville senior Jake Garella just thinks the Tigers are in a better place as a team than they were a month ago, too. Garella was one of the stars for EHS Thursday, going 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a double in the win. It was Garella's fourth dinger of the season.
“We came into this game with some good confidence,” Garella said. “Not to say we didn't have confidence last time, but it got under our skin a little bit taking that loss and we came out (today) with a great mentality and great at-bats and we jumped on them early.
“We love each other as a team, but I think we're playing together a little better than we were earlier. We have some good chemistry going on and I think we need to keep it going.”
Both squads had their chances early, but were unable to score.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the top of the first, but St. Peters got Cole Hansel to pop out to end the threat. Alton loaded them up in the second inning, but Frank induced a double play ball off the bat of Seth Boschert to end the inning and keep it scoreless.
“I think our approach kind of changed after hitting into that double play early on,” Haug said. “Then we kind of went back out there and struggled a little bit the next half inning.”
It was Garella putting the charge into a ball over the left field fence in the top of the third to put EHS up 1-0. Collin Clayton then hit an infield single and ultimately scored on a RBI single by Hansel to make it 2-0 in favor of Edwardsville.
“I was expecting a curveball and he came at me with a changeup and left it in just a little bit and it felt great,” Garella said of his homer.
The Tiger really poured it on in the fourth. Andrew Yancik drew a leadoff walk and Joel Quirin singled to put the first two runners on. After Kade Burns sacrificed them to second and third, Yancik scored on a wild pitch to elevate the lead to 3-0, ending St. Peters' day.
Cole Cimarolli chased home Quirin on a sac fly against reliever Charlie Erler to make it 4-0. After Garella doubled and Clayton walked, Tyler Stamer provided the exclamation point. He walloped a three-run bomb to left — his seventh homer of the season — to push it to 7-0.
“I was definitely looking for a fastball to drive and and I think with getting hit and walked earlier my mindset was to get a good pitch to drive and get some more runs in,” Stamer said. “I definitely got my pitch there. I was sitting dead red and drove it over the fence.”
It proved to be the last hit for EHS. Erler got Hansel to fly out to end the fourth and sat down the next six Edwardsville hitters in a row. Devin Colley came on in the seventh and retired the three Tiger hitters he faced, so the final 10 batters for EHS went down in order.
Alton kept plugging away, stranding two runners on base in both the fifth and the sixth and finally struck pay dirt in the seventh. Steven Pattan reached on an error to start things and Boschert walked to put the first two on. Frank was lifted for Jordan Yenne, who walked Derrick Allen and then induced a ground out from Mikey Hampton that plated Pattan to cut it to 7-1.
After walking Noah Rathgeb to reload the bags, Robbie Taul hit a long fly ball to center, but Clayton, playing shallow, raced a long way for a nifty catch. It scored pinch runner Jon Witt, but kept the Birds from clearing the bases and getting any closer than 7-2. They stranded a total of eight base runners in the game.
Haug thought it was just a matter of a couple of mistakes and Alton will regroup from the loss.
“Both home runs came on two strikes and we just missed our spot,” Haug said. “They are a good quality ball club with good hitters in the middle. We'll regroup, we'll come back and we'll be ready to go next time we see them.”
Funkhouser said the win over the rival Redbirds was a good spark for a big stretch of baseball. EHS plays host to the Tiger Classic on Friday and Saturday, the 10th edition of the annual tournament at Tom Pile Field. The Tigers see Lockport Friday and Chatham Glenwood and Highland on Saturday. They then welcome SWC-leading O'Fallon at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“First this gives us positioning on the conference to where we can at least control our destiny and be with it toward the end and that's what we wanted,” Funkhouser said. “It also puts us in a position where we can be a top four seed (in the sub-sectional). We've got the weekend to still battle for that.
“And when we put this tournament on the schedule, we did it with the intent to see some good teams and get us hardened for the postseason.”
The Redbirds are back in action at 11 a.m. Saturday with a doubleheader vs. Lindbergh at home. At 10 a.m. they will have a dedication ceremony for their new baseball field.
EDWARDSVILLE 7, ALTON 2
Tigers 002 500 0 — 7 7 2
Redbirds 000 000 2 — 2 4 1
Edwardsville (21-4, 9-2) — Cole Cimarolli 0-3 SAC RBI, Jake Garella 2-4 2B HR RBI, Collin Clayton 2-3 BB SB, Tyler Stamer 1-2 HR HBP BB 3 RBIs, Cole Hansel 1-4 RBI, Joel Quirin 1-2.
WP — Andrew Frank 6.0IP 3H 2R 0ER 2BB 4K 1HBP
Jordan Yenne 1.0IP 0H 0R 0ER 2BB 0K
Alton (19-8, 6-4) — Mikey Hampton 0-4 RBI, Robbie Taul 0-3 SAC RBI, Steven Nguyen 2-3, Seth Boschert 1-2 BB.
LP — Jacob St. Peters 3.1IP 5H 4R 4ER 4BB 2K 1HBP
Charlie Erler 2.2IP 2H 3R 3ER 1BB 2K
Devin Colley 1.0IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 0K