ALTON – They sought a sweep, but the Metro East Bears settled for a split Tuesday night at Gordon F. Moore Park.
And they weren’t thrilled about it.
The Bears belted Belleville, 6-1, in the first game of an American Senior Legion District 22 baseball game, then dropped the second one, 3-2. Metro East pushed its overall record to 13-4. The Bears are 4-1 in league competition. Belleville’s Hilgards went to 19-4 and 3-1. They were the home team in the second game.
“We had a solid first game, then we had a little bad luck in the second one,” Bears’ manager Ken Schaake said. “We didn’t do anything right in that sixth inning.”
Belleville manager Zach Rakowski counted the Hilgards as fortunate in the nightcap. They scored two sixth-inning runs on a bunt single, an error, a walk, a balk and an infield out. The Hilgards overturned a 2-1 deficit and escaped Hopkins Field with an unlikely win.
“Absolutely, it’s nice to get a split,” Rakowski said. “We kind of got blitzed in the first game. Then we got a couple of little things to work for us in the sixth inning of the second game. There were only eight hits in the second game, so sometimes it takes an inning like that to push across runs.”
Reliever Ben Cusac absorbed the tough-luck loss in the second game. An error, coupled with Matt Klosterman’s bunt single and a walk loaded the bases for the Hilgards with none out in the sixth.
Drake Hampton, replacing Cusac, then committed a balk, enabling Belleville to knot things. Cal Kossina’s infield out drove home the winning run and provided Parker Wyatt with the victory. He scattered five hits and gave up one earned run. Metro East starter Maverick McSparin gave up three hits and one run in five innings.
“I told the players we didn’t lose the game in the last inning,” Schaake said. “We missed some opportunities to add to our lead. We had a leadoff double in the top of the sixth and didn’t score. If get ahead 3-1 instead of 2-1, it could have made a difference.
“Belleville has a good team, but it was tough to lose the second game 3-2.”
Hampton scored a wacky run in the first to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. He reached second base on a throwing error, stole third and continued home on another throwing error. Belleville tied the score in the bottom of the first on Kossina’s sacrifice fly, but the Bears forged ahead 2-1 in the third on Jordan Hovey’s run-scoring single. Hampton went 2-for-3, stole two bases and reached base three times in the second game.
Catcher Nick Paulda powered the Bears in their first-game victory. He went 2-for-2, stroked a two-run home run in a four-run third and reached base three times.
“I’ve been hitting the ball well lately and we all have been doing that,” Paulda said following the opener. “The home run was a pretty good dagger at that point of the game.”
Teammate Matthew Zielonko clouted a solo home run in the second inning. Aaron Jackson and Hovey both contributed two hits and Jackson swiped two bases. Anthony Kindle and McSparin collected run-scoring singles as the Bears erupted for 10 hits against Belleville pitcher Matt Klosterman
Winning pitcher Jacob St. Peters tossed a seven-hitter. He struck out four and walked two in improving to 4-0.
“By far, it was his best game of the year,” Paulda said of his battery-mate. “He had everything working and when he’s pitching like that, he’s going to get a lot of ground-ball outs and double plays.”
The Bears backed St. Peters by turning three double plays and St. Peters got 14 outs via ground balls.
Metro East is idle until Friday when it plays at least four game this weekend in the fourth annual Southwest Illinois Firecracker Classic. The Bears welcome Jerseyville at 10 a.m. Friday and then entertain Mount Vernon at 7 p.m. that night. They also play host to Columbia, Mo., and Fulton, Mo., at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, Saturday in Pool A. The wood bat tourney semifinals and finals are scheduled for Sunday at Longacre Park in Fairview Heights.
After that, the Bears entertain Fairview Heights in a 7:30 p.m. league game Monday.
"Every game is a big game in the district," Paulda said.
METRO EAST 6, BELLEVILLE 1
Belleville 010 000 0 – 1 7 0
Metro East 024 000 X – 6 10 0
Belleville (18-4, 2-1) – Spencer Piquard 2-3, Luke Frazier 1-3, John Dozier 2-3 2B, Cal Kossina 1-3, Luke Glaeser 1-3 RBI. LP – Matt Klosterman IP-6 H-9 R-6 ER-6 BB-0 K-6
Metro East (13-3, 4-0) – Jordan Hovey 2-3, Maverick McSparin 1-3 2B RBI, Matthews Zielonko 1-3 HR RBI, Aaron Jackson 2-3 RBI, Nick Paulda 2-2 HR RBI-2, Anthony Kindle 1-3 RBI, Jacob Skrabacz 1-3. WP – Jacob St. Peters IP-7 H-7 R-1 ER-1 BB-2 K-4
BELLEVILLE 3, METRO EAST 2
Metro East 101 000 0 – 2 5 1
Belleville 100 002 X – 3 4 3
Metro East (13-4, 4-1) – Drake Hampton 2-3 Maverick McSparin 1-3 2B, Jordan Hovey 1-3, Connor Melton 1-3 2B. LP – Ben Cusac IP-0 H-1 R-2 ER-1 BB-1 K-0; Matthew McSparin IP-5 H-3 R-1 ER-1 BB-2 K-3; Drake Hampton IP-1 H-0 R-0 BB-0 K-1
Belleville (19-4, 3-1) – Spencer Piquard 1-3, Matt Klosterman 2-3, Cal Kossina 1-2 2B RBI-2. WP – Wyatt Parker IP-7 H-5 R-2 ER-1 BB-0 K-3