ROXANA – Clutch hitting made the difference for the Roxana Shells baseball team in Friday afternoon’s South Central Conference contest against the Southwestern Piasa Birds.
Blake Vandiver’s seventh-inning single into center field brought Logan Presley home from second base to give the Shells a 4-3 win. Presley doubled prior to Vandiver's game-winning hit.
Roxana remains undefeated in the SSC with a 5-0 in record in the league. The Shells improved to 6-9 overall.
“You have to put the ball in play,” Vandiver said. “A lot of things went our way that inning, but you just have to put the ball in play.”
Roxana coach Scott Harper agreed that the two teams were evenly matched.
“They’re the cream of the crop,” Harper said. “Those guys have been working hard and they’re at the top of the conference heap. They won it last year being undefeated 9-0. It’s a good win for us.”
Piasa Birds' coach Brian Hanslow said it's always a fierce battle between the two schools.
“Roxana and Southwestern have been a rivalry for a long time,” he said. “It all comes down to who gets the last hit and today we came up on the short end.”
Vandiver went 3-for-4 from the plate in the contest. He also tripled in the first, with his RBI triple enabling the Shells to take a 1-0 lead. He also singled in the sixth.
But things didn’t always look so good for Roxana. The Birds took a 3-1 lead in the third. Scott Kasting’s one-run single made the score 1-1 and one-run singles from pitcher Collin Baumgartner and Ben Lowis made the score 3-1 in favor of Southwestern.
“It’s tough; they’re a good ball club and they earned it,” Harper said. “And they didn’t make many errors. You just have to keep making your pitches and play good defense.”
Roxana struggled in scoring for the next three innings. The Shells stranded one runner in the third, put no runners on base in the fourth and stranded one runner in the fifth. Vandiver led off the sixth with a single and then stole second and third base. Adam Moore’s single into right field brought Vandiver home, slicing the Piasa Birds' lead to 3-2.
“Collin (Baumgartner) is a good pitcher,” Harper said. “He was throwing the ball well, he had great velocity. In the end, we just kept working at it and got some big hits. The run in the sixth, it was huge and brought us one step closer. We needed two in the bottom half instead of three.”
Hanslow also felt Baumgartner gave a good effort.
“He pitched well,” Hanslow said. “He’s our main man and I probably left him in too long. If we win or lose, it will be with him. We're going to ride him out.”
Southwestern (8-6, 3-1 SSC) banged out eight hits against Roxana pitcher Tanner Davis, who worked all seven innings. Davis gave up three runs, struck out three batters and walked four. The Shells produced seven hits against Baumgartner, who fanned 10, walked 1 and gave up 4 runs. Like Davis, Baumgartner pitched all seven innings.
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