ROXANA — A strong pitching performance from Tanner Davis allowed the Roxana Shells to edge the East-Alton Wood River Oilers 1-0 in the play-in game of the Class 2A Althoff Regional at Roxana.
In the pitching duel against the Oilers’ Blake Marks, Davis struck out four, walked two and gave up five hits. Roxana coach Scott Harper called the Davis outing “huge.”
“He’s improved so much,” Harper said. “It was a big battle, he did everything he could.”
The postseason win marks Roxana’s first over the Oilers (13-19) this year. EA-WR defeated the Shells 4-1 on March 17 and 10-3 on May 2 in the previous two meetings. The one-run victory in the regional on Monday extends Roxana’s winning streak to five games.
“This is what we’re capable of doing,” Harper said. “We’ve had lot of hiccups throughout the season. I think we’re playing to our potential finally. We’re on a little roll here. Wood River played a great game.”
Marks worked all seven innings on the mound for the Oilers. He struck out five batters, walked three and surrendered three hits and one run. Trace Gentry’s sacrifice fly in the first inning gave the Shells (15-17) the only run they needed to win. Marks also went 2-for-3 at the plate, as he singled in the first and fourth innings and drew a walk in the sixth.
“It was a tough battle,” EA-WR head coach Kyle Duncan said. “The (Tanner) Davis kid threw well and Marks played well. They scored that one on a sacrifice fly to centerfield. A couple things didn’t go our way, most of the season they have. It’s just one of those days.”
The Oilers had some chances to score, as they stranded seven runners in the game: one in the first, second and fourth innings and two in the sixth and seventh. Roxana played an errorless game and benefitted from strong fielding. Harper credited shortstop Chance Foss.
“I knew it was going to be a pitchers’ duel,” he said. “(Blake) Marks is so tough, but Chance (Foss) making two big plays in the hole with his arm and getting a few double plays….”
The contest concluded with a big play. With two on base in the seventh inning, EA-WR’s Zach Wells came to the plate and smacked a line drive into centerfield. Shells’ center fielder Blake Vandiver picked up the ball and threw it home. Cody Blacklock, who was on second before Wells’ hit, was tagged out at home to end the game.
“We obviously had to have that throw at the end to put him out at the plate,” Harper said.
Vandiver said he put everything he had into the throw.
“Chad (Mott) was in a perfect spot,” Vandiver said. “As soon as I let go of the ball, it looked like he was gone. He’s a quick kid too, so getting him out was pretty cool.”
The win advances the Shells into the regional semifinals. Sixth-seeded Roxana meets top-seeded Althoff at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Whitey Herzog Field inside Citizen's Park in Belleville.
It's not the end for the Oilers either. Due to rainouts, EA-WR has one Prairie State Conference contest left to decide the conference championship. The Oilers play host to the Bunker Hill Minutemen at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. A win will give EA-WR a guaranteed share of the PSC crown.