EDWARDSVILLE – Devin Colley gave the Metro East Bears just what they needed Friday night.
The side-winding right-hander pitched 7.2 scoreless innings of relief as the Bears eliminated Belleville 6-3 in the American Senior Legion District 22 baseball playoffs.
Post 199/126, surviving an elimination game at Hoppe Park, faces Highland for the playoff championship Saturday at Glik Park. Metro East, now 17-5, clashes with 13-7 Highland at 1 p.m.
The Bears needs to win that game and a second one to advance to the Fifth Division playoffs. Highland is unbeaten in the double-elimination district, including a 6-2 win over the Bears.
“It feels pretty good to win tonight and it’s pretty exciting to see my teammates trying hard,” Colley said.
The recent Alton High graduate proved to be a lifesaver in a game that featured a wild start. He allowed just one hit, struck out four and walked one in the longest pitching outing, covering 91 pitches, of his career. Essentially, he stopped the Bears’ bleeding.
“I don’t think I’ve pitched more than 4.2 innings in any game since the high school season,” said Colley, planning to attend McHenry County College in Chicagoland. “Maybe it’s the best game I’ve ever pitched. I’m not sure about that.”
Bears’ manager Ken Schaake noted: “He did a good pitching and we are very pleased with his effort. He worked fast and threw strikes.”
Belleville manager Jonathon Schweppe tipped his capped to Colley. “I’ll bet that’s the longest he has pitched all season,” he said. “Our kids had trouble picking up the ball against him. He came in and did what any coach would want him to do.”
The Hilgards touched Metro East starter Maverick McSparin for two runs in the first inning, but the Bears responded with three runs during their first at-bat. All of them were unearned as Belleville committed four errors in the opening inning. Collin Clayton’s double was the Bears’ lone hit.
“That’s uncharacteristic of us,” Schweppe said of the four infield errors. “And all four of them came with two outs. That’s no good and the first inning was huge.
“That’s where we lost the game.”
Belleville made five errors in all, two more than Metro East. Tai Kerizian’s RBI single in the first inning and bases-loaded walk in the second pointed the Hilgards back in the right direction.
Then Colley took over and corralled them. He retired 10 consecutive batters and 16 of 17 at one point as the Bears forged in front. Cole Cimarolli’s two-run double in the fourth snapped a 3-3 tie and Metro East tacked on another run via a wild pitch in the sixth.
“He’s a solid player and that was a huge hit,” Schaake said of Cimarolli’s tie-breaking two-bagger.
Cimarolli, an Edwardsville High product, went 2-for-5 and was sharp defensively. Second baseman Mitchell Krebs was 1-for-3, scored twice and reached base three times.
“I just wanted to put the bat on the ball and it was a good feeling,” Cimarolli said of his key double. “It was very uplifting to win this game and we are confident we can win both games Saturday.”
The Bears won both regular season games against Highland before bowing in district playoff contest Tuesday. If a second game is needed Saturday, it will follow the first one and start about 4 p.m.
“We will have just about everybody to throw Saturday,” Schaake said. “Highland’s a good team, so we will take nothing for granted.”
Saturday’s district champion advances to the Fifth Division Tournament that starts Monday in West Frankfort. The state tourney follows at Jerseyville and the Bears will play host to the Great Lakes Regional at SIUE next month.
Belleville finished 13-16, including a 2-2 record against Metro East. Both losses came in the district playoffs. Friday’s losing hurler Rory Keen yielded 6 hits and 3 earned runs in a 138-pitch, complete-game performance.
“Keen was fantastic and that’s the best game he threw all season,” Schweppe said.
DISTRICT 22 PLAYOFFS
(At Hoppe Park, Edwardsville)
METRO EAST BEARS 6, BELLEVILLE 3
Belleville 210 000 000 – 3 4 5
Metro East Bears 300 201 00X—6 6 3
Belleville (113-16) – Matt Sisk 1-5, Steve Toenjes 1-4, Logan Betz 1-3 2B, Wyatt Parker 0-3 RBI, Tai Kerizian 1-3 RBI-2. LP – Rory Keen IP-8 H-6 R-6 ER-3 BB-2 K-5
Metro East Bears (17-5) – Cole Cimarolli 2-5 2B RBI-2, Collin Clayton 1-4 2B, Cole Hansel 1-3, Steven Pattan 1-4, Mitchell Krebs 1-3. WP – Devin Colley IP-7.2 H-1 R-0 BB-1 K-4; Maverick McSparin IP-1.1 H-3 R-3 ER-2 BB-4 K-1