Photo by Caleb Motsinger
Civic Memorial's Tommy Flack started out on the mound Thursday as the Metro-East Bears took to Lloyd Hopkins Field at Gordon Moore Park for the team's first game against Fairview Heights.
Austin Stilts came through in the clutch for the first-year Metro East Bears on Thursday night.
His two-run single in the sixth inning helped the Bears shade Fairview Heights, 2-1, in a District 22 Senior Legion baseball game at Hopkins Field. It was the season debut for the Bears, a composite team featuring players from six high schools and multiple colleges.
“We have high expectations,” said Stilts, who went 2-for-4 in getting half of the Bear’s hits. “This win was huge for us.”
Tommy Flack worked six strong innings to log the victory. Drew Curtis allowed one hit while fanning three in the seventh to register a save.
“We have a good team; we just need to keep working,” said Flack, who yielded just two hits and an unearned run. “It was tough early on with the rain tonight, but we hung in there.”
A couple of errors, a walk and a stolen base enabled 3-1 Fairview to score an unearned run in the third. The visitors carried that 1-0 lead into the sixth on a wet night at Moore Park.
The Bears finally solved Fairview Heights pitcher Rich Boatman in the sixth. With one out, Jordan Briggs and Connor Melton singled. They moved to second and third base, respectively, with two outs. Edwardsville product Drew Curtis was intentionally walked to load the bases, setting the scene for Stilts.
He lined a single to left field. Briggs and Melton scored, putting Metro East on top for good. The Bears parlayed three of their four hits in the sixth inning and they survived despite making three errors.
“There’s plenty of talent and grit on this team,” said Curtis, who is transferring from Saint Louis University to Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “I think there are some similarities between this team and the Edwardsville one that won state last year.”
Curtis was a key member of that Post 199 team that won the Illinois championship at Trenton and advanced to the Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute, Ind.
Manager Ken Schaake liked what he saw from the Bears, especially after they trailed most of the way.
“For the kids to hang in there like they did, I’m really happy for them,” Schaake said. “They hung together and did what they needed to do.”
Stilts supplied the game-changing hit and that didn’t surprise Schaake.
“He’s a good hitter and he stayed composed in that situation during the sixth inning,” Schaake added. “I thought he hit the ball really well in all of his at-bats.”
The Bears are scheduled to play this weekend in a tournament at Festus, Mo. They will resume District 22 play at 8 p.m. Monday here against Collinsville. Then Metro East welcomes Troy in a 7:30 game Tuesday at Hoppe Park in Edwardsville.