WOOD RIVER — A little bit of trickery went a long way for the East Alton-Wood River baseball team Tuesday at Norris Dorsey Field.
The Oilers used a spot of gamesmanship in the sixth inning to preserve a 7-6 victory over Metro East Lutheran in a Prairie State Conference contest.
“It saved the game for us,” EA-WR coach Kyle Duncan said of the unusual, but savvy play. “It really did.”
Here was the scene:
The Knights, trailing by one run, had Reed Harmon on second base with two outs and No. 3 hitter Paul Kubicek at the plate.
EA-WR relief pitcher Christian Hunter stepped off the mound and acted as if he threw the ball to second base. Shortstop Tyler Hamby and second baseman Zach Wells went along with maneuver, diving to the ground and pretending the throw sailed into center field.
Harmon took off for third base, but Hunter still had the ball in his right hand. The Oilers then caught Harmon in a rundown and tagged him out to end the inning.
“I talked to our guys after the game about that play,” MELHS coach Joel Rempfer said. “I’m sure they hadn’t seen it before today. The good news is that it happened today and not in a playoff game.”
Duncan said, “That’s a play that (assistant coach) Tyler Bress used with the Twin City Legion team in the summer.
“We tried that play ourselves once last season, but it didn’t work. Today, it was successful and it got us the win. It took a team effort of several guys to make it work.”
Hunter, a transfer from Monrovia, Ind., said, “It’s the first time I’ve ever run it and it’s a very cool play. I did my part by running at the baserunner and we executed the play.”
Shortstop Tyler Hamby chipped in, “Coach gave us the sign and we dived to the ground.”
Hunter pitched two scoreless innings to save the game for starter Blake Marks, who earned his second win of the season. Marks allowed six hits and six runs — though just one of them earned — in five innings. He struck out seven.
Marks also blasted a two-run home run in EA-WR’s six-run first inning. MELHS scored three in the top of the first and two more in the second and it seemed as if a slugfest was brewing. Yet after that, pitching and defense became more prominent.
The Oilers, getting eight hits, including three from Hamby, survived four errors. Hunter was 2-for-4 with a double in the fifth inning when Luke Wells’ sacrifice fly snapped a 6-6 tie. Jacob Vassos contributed a two-run single in the opening inning and Hunter Hall provided a run-scoring single.
EA-WR improved to 2-2 in winning its conference debut. MELHS dropped to 2-4 and 0-2.
“We had a rough day in the field and it was more of a mental thing than anything else,” Duncan said. “But we battled back and kept the lead.”
Hamby noted, “We made a few errors, but we started hitting a little. That’s the best hitting game I’ve had.”
Noah Coddington went 2-for-3 to pace MELHS. Losing pitcher Chase Langendorf helped his cause by going 1-for-3 with 3 RBIs. Eli Jacobs blasted a triple, Kubicek had a hit and one RBI, while Harmon was 1-for-4 and reached base 3 times. Langendorf yielded seven hits and seven runs, five of them earned, in five innings.
“We had a tough first inning, then we put it behind us and we never gave up,” Rempfer said. “We battled back, took some good swings and put ourselves in position to win the game.
“I think we can only go up from here this season. As long as we continue to grow, we will be all right. That’s our main goal. It’s not a rebuilding season for us but an adjusting one.”
The Oilers welcome Breese Central in a doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. They then entertain Columbia on Monday. The Knights play host to Marissa on Monday and go to Red Bud next Tuesday (March 29).
PRAIRIE STATE CONFERENCE
EA-WR 7, METRO EAST LUTHERAN 6
MELHS 320 010 0 – 6 7 2
EA-WR 600 010 X – 7 8 4
MELHS (2-4, 0-2) — Reed Harmon 1-4, Jordan Brown 1-4, Paul Kubicek 1-3 RBI, Eli Jacobs 1-4 3B, Chase Langendorf 1-3 RBI-3, Noah Coddington 2-3.
LP — Langendorf IP- 5 H-7 R-7 ER-5 BB-3 K-3
Kubicek IP-1 H-1 R-0 BB-0 K-0;
EA-WR (2-2, 1-0) — Tyler Hamby 3-4, Blake Marks 1-4 HR RBI-2, Christian Hunter 2-3 2B, Luke Wells 0-1 RBI, Jacob Vassos 1-3 RBI-2, Hunter Hall 1-3 RBI.
WP — Marks IP-5 H-6 R-6 ER-1 BB-3 K-7
SV — Hunter IP-2 H-1 R-0 BB-0 K-3