ALTON – They survived and then thrived in their tournament opener.
The Metro East Bears dodged an extra-inning bullet before defeating Jerseyville, 5-1, in an 11-inning American Senior Legion baseball marathon Friday afternoon at Gordon Moore Park.
The 14-5 Bears then lost to Mount Vernon, 4-3 on Friday night. So they are 1-1 in Pool A of the 15-team weekend Southwest Illinois Firecracker Classic. Jerseyville, which defeated Fulton, Mo., 3-1 in its second game, pushed its record to 5-6. Post 492 is 1-1 in the tourney.
Mount Vernon, improving to 6-4, is the only 2-0 squad in the five-team Pool A. Winning pitcher Tyler Morgan struck out eight and threw a six-hitter in outpitching Drake Hampton. Anthony Kindle's two-run double in the second sparked the Bears. Post 141 scored all of its runs in the third.
A four-run 11th inning enabled the Bears to beat scrappy Jerseyville.
“I’m glad it’s over,” quipped Bears’ catcher Nick Paulda, who helped ignite a four-run 11th. He singled in a run and went 3-for-5 overall with two RBIs, including a run-scoring single in the seventh.
Paulda added, “I’ve been seeing the ball well and I changed my swing a little. It has been working for me.”
Bears’ manager Ken Schaake pointed out, “Nick has been hitting the ball hard, where ever it has been pitched. He’s spraying it around.”
Caleb Buhs supplied a run-scoring triple in the 11th. Hampton added a double and Aaron Jackson contributed a sacrifice fly as the Bears made a winner out of reliever Jordan Hovey. He earned it, mainly for getting out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the 10th.
Post 492 had the winning run at third base, but couldn’t score. Hovey struck out Drake Kanallakan, got James Holmes on a force-play-at-the-plate grounder and then fanned Michael Clendenen to escape deep trouble.
“We had a lot of pressure on us and Jordan came up very big for us,” Schaake said. “Once we got out of the 10th, that changed the momentum and put the pressure on them.”
Hovey agreed. “We got some momentum going and then we came back and scored in the next inning,” he said. “I know our offense is good. I was just hoping we would score like that a little earlier in the game.”
Jerseyville manager Darren Perdun said the fateful 10th inning changed the complexion of the game. “We had the bases loaded with nobody out and we don’t score,” he said. “All we had to do was push across one run to win the game and we couldn’t do it.”
Kanallakan's pitching kept Post 492 in the game, which was a much different one from June 9 when Metro East swamped Jerseyville, 15-0, in seven innings.
“It was 10 innings of excellent played baseball on our part and their part,” Perdun said of the rematch. "Drake pitched pretty well for us and he has done that all summer.”
Kanallakan allowed six hits and one run in eight innings. Reliever Levi Staples, absorbing the defeat, was touched for four hits and four runs in four innings. Jerseyville managed only four hits. Post 492 scored in the fifth when Clendenen walked and stole second with one out. He moved to third on Keilyun Manning’s single and scored on Staples’ infield out.
Zac Cato, the Bears’ starting pitcher, yielded three hits and one run in five innings. Connor Melton replaced him and gave up only one hit in four innings. Hovey took over in the 10th and worked two hitless innings. Melton also chipped in with two hits.
“He (Cato) pitched well and Matthew Zielonko gave us a big hit,” Schaake said of Zielonko’s leadoff triple in the seventh. One out later, Paulda singled to make it 1-1 and the extra-inning battle began.
“We got out of a tough situation in the 10th and then we came together when we needed to do it,” Paulda said. “We got the big hits at the right time.”
The tournament resumes Saturday and closes Sunday. Metro East is scheduled to play Columbia, Mo. at 10 a.m. Saturday and Fulton, Mo. at 7 p.m. at Lloyd Hopkins Field. The tourney semifinals unfold at 11 a.m. Sunday in Fairview Heights’ Longacre Park. The three pool winners, including those at Belleville and Fairview Heights – plus an overall wild card – advance to the semis.
The championship game is tentatively set for 3 p.m. Sunday at Longacre Park.
METRO EAST 5, JERSEYVILLE 1, 11 innings
Metro East 000 000 100 04 – 5 10 1
Jerseyville 000 010 000 00 –1 4 1
Metro East (14-4) – Hampton 1-5 2B, Hovey 1-2 2B, Zielonko 1-5 3B, Jackson 1-4 RBI, Paulda 3-5 RBI, Buhs 1-5 3B, Melton 2-5.
WP – Hovey IP-2 H-0 R-0 BB-1 K-2
Cato IP-5 H-3 R-1 ER-1 BB-3 K-4
Melton IP-4 H-1 R-0 BB-2 K-3
Jerseyville (4-6) – Kanallakan 2-5 2B, Manning 1-5, Staples 1-4 RBI.
LP – Staples IP-3 H-4 R-4 ER-4 BB-0 K-4
Kanallakan IP-8 H-6 R-1 ER-1 BB-3