ALTON — Stealing bases has been a specialty for Roxana senior center fielder Blake Vandiver.
During his high school baseball career, Vandiver has stolen 47 bases, including a career-high 20 this year.
“It’s the only thing I can do,” Vandiver said. “I can’t hit the ball out of the park, so I just have to get on base and steal bases.”
Vandiver hit the 20-steal mark after stealing two bases in the Shells’ 3-1 win over the Marquette Catholic Explorers at Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park on Wednesday. He stole second in the third and fifth innings.
Vandiver is the only Roxana player in double digits in steals.
“(Roxana) Coach (Scott Harper) and my teammates always give me support,” Vandiver said. “Coach gives me the signs at the right times and I get a good jump and it puts me in an opportunity to be successful.”
The Shells stole seven bases against the Explorers. Third baseman Trace Gentry also had two steals and shortstop Chance Foss, right fielder Tanner Davis and first baseman Jacob Maguire each stole a base.
“We have a lot of team speed,” Vandiver said. “I’m very fast. Chance is very fast. Everybody on this team can run for the most part.”
Vandiver also got the Shells’ only hit in the game, which was a single in the bottom of the third.
The Shells improved to 9-14 with 10 regular season games remaining. Roxana plays road games against North Mac on Thursday and Southwestern on Friday.
“We started off slow, but we play a tough schedule,” Harper said. “That’s what I reminded these guys. (Marquette) was our 10th 3A school on our schedule out of those 23 games. This is our first one we were able to win out of it. We’ll keep battling. We’re just trying to get into a rhythm of playing games. Our season has been inconsistent, but I told them in the huddle if we can play like this, we can play with anybody. We’re capable of that.”
Junior Sam Mosby picked up the win on the mound for Roxana. He went the distance, giving up one run on four hits, striking out one and walking one.
“We’re expecting things like that for him to do on a regular basis,” Harper said. “Our season as a whole has kind of been up and down, so we’re trying to work on being consistent. So he came out today and he worked hard and threw some good breaking pitches for strikes today, which is huge to keep their hitters off stride.”
Wednesday’s game was moved to Gordon Moore Park due to wet conditions at Roxana Park. Roxana was the home team.
The Explorers dropped to 8-11 with Wednesday’s loss. Marquette suffered a 2-1 loss to East Alton-Wood River on Monday at home.
“We haven’t gelled really well and I think that’s the problem,” Marquette coach Tim Fahnestock said. “It comes with playing a lot of baseball. We had some inconsistencies.”
Marquette junior pitcher Brady McAfee gave up three runs on one hit, struck out four and walked five in six innings of work.
The Explorers, who travel to Bunker Hill on Thursday, outhit the Shells 4-1. McAfee, Jacob File, Konnor Morrisey and Jayce Maag each had a hit.
“It’s a tough 3-1 loss,” Fahnestock said. “When you outhit somebody and you lose, it’s a tough day.”
File led off the game with a bunt single. After stealing second and moving to third on a groundout, File scored on a sacrifice fly by Liam Maher to give Marquette a 1-0 lead.
But the Shells came back with a run in the bottom of the second and two in the third to pull off the victory.
“It’s pretty impressive,” said Vandiver, who is one of Shells’ top hitters on the team with a .373 batting average. “It’s always fun playing Marquette. They always beat us in basketball, so it’s nice to actually beat them in baseball.”
Gentry led off the bottom of the second with a walk, then stole second and third before scoring on a groundout by Logan Presley to tie the game at 1-1.
Foss led off the bottom of the third with a walk and advanced to second on Vandiver’s single. Vandiver and Foss then advanced to second and third on a double steal.
The Shells had the bases loaded after Davis walked. Then, Billy Mathis hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Foss to give Roxana a 2-1 lead. Vandiver scored on a groundout by Gentry to increase the Shells’ lead to 3-1.
Harper said he’s thrilled with his team’s performance on the base paths. Roxana has 58 stolen bases as a team this season.
“We take advantage of what we have,” the Roxana coach said. “We’ve got some team speed, so we see what the situations allow for us. If the right guys can get on, we are able to take advantage of situations like that. Anytime if we’re going to get one hit in a game, we have to find a way to put the pressure on the defense and give ourselves a chance.”