ALTON — The Marquette Catholic Explorers managed to squeeze by the Roxana Shells on Wednesday at Gordon Moore Park with a 4-3 victory. The win put Marquette above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
The Explorers took an early 4-1 lead, but the Shells didn't walk away without a fight. Picking away at Marquette's lead throughout the game, Roxana threatened the Explorers with a two-out rally in the seventh inning, but fell short, leaving the bases loaded to end the game.
The Explorers pushed their record to 9-8 with the triumph, while the Shells dipped to 9-11 on the season.
"We were fortunate when they (Shells) put the ball in play today, it came right at us," Marquette head coach Tim Fahnestock said. "Our guys made plays today, that's what we ask them to do. Roxana really hit the ball hard, but we had a good outing today. This was a big win, finally put us over .500."
Roxana left two on the bags in the top of the first inning, but were shut down before seniors Logan Reardon and Josh Rudd could cross the plate. Marquette answered with a single by Danny Holtz and a RBI double by sophomore Liam Maher to get the Explorers on the board. Maher eventually crossed home to give Marquette a quick 2-0 lead after one frame.
The Shells responded in the second with patience in the batter's box. Roxana's bases were loaded with three straight walks to Adam Moore, Tanner Davis and Joe Ingram in the bottom three spots in the batting order. Junior Chance Foss then earned a RBI off a sacrifice fly to Marquette's center fielder Brady McAfee to cut the Explorers lead in half, 2-1.
Marquette led off in the home-half of the second with Jacob File singling to left field. McAfee swung for a RBI double to give the Explorers an insurance run after File crossed the dish to push the lead to 3-1 for the Explorers.
Maher reached with a lead-off single and stole second to get into scoring position for the Explorers in the third. He advanced to third base on the Shells only error of the game. Maher reached home on a well placed sacrifice bunt by Nate Siener to give Marquette a comfortable 4-1 lead.
The fourth inning seemed like Deja vu as Moore, Davis and Ingram all drew walks from the Marquette mound to load the bags. The second round of walks sparked a pitching change for the Explorers as Maher replaced Jacob Eggering on the mound. Foss repeated his efforts with a RBI sacrifice fly to McAfee, allowing Moore to score for a second time to shorten the gap to 4-2.
"We had our chances," Roxana head coach Scott Harper said. "Those guys showing patience at the plate and drawing the walks was what we needed. Both times in the situation, all we could produce was two sacrifice flies. We've had really good at-bats, Marquette just made every play in return."
The Shells contained the Explorers' offensive the rest of the way with Rudd on the hill. Rudd relieved the starter Davis.
Roxana entered the seventh inning still trailing by two runs and fell behind the eight ball with two quick outs.
But junior Blake Vandiver kept the Shells alive with a single to left center. Reardon followed suit with a single up the middle to put the winning run on first base. Back-to-back walks to Rudd and Skiff scored Vandiver to make it a one-run game. But while the effort was good, the Shells couldn't muster anything else, leaving the bases loaded to close the game in a 4-3 loss.
Marquette sophomore Maher, who came on to notch the save for Eggering's win, was pleased with the effort from his squad.
"All together we did pretty good," Maher said. "We worked together as a team and all did our own individual jobs on the field. Roxana's pitchers were decent, but we were able to pull some hits off when it counted. Roxana is one of those neighboring teams where we really want to get the win and we put in our best effort. That's what it took."
Marquette doesn't have a lot of time to enjoy the victory before they load the bus on Thursday to face off with Metro East Lutheran at 4:30 p.m. Roxana has a chance to catch their breath before they play host to Southwestern on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Both games are nonconference, as the Explorers have already played MELHS in the Prairie State Conference and the Shells have done the same with the rival Piasa Birds in the South Central Conference.
MARQUETTE 4, ROXANA 3
ROXANA 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 — 3 3 1
MARQUETTE 2 1 1 0 0 0 X — 4 6 0
MARQUETTE (9-8) — Danny Holtz 1-3, Liam Maher 2-3 RBI, Nate Siener RBI, Jacob File 2-3, Brady McAfee 1-3 RBI
WP — Jacob Eggering 3.1IP, 2K, 7BB, 1H, 1ER
SV — Maher 2.2IP, 0K, 1BB, 3H, 1ER
ROXANA (9-11) — Blake Vandiver 1-4, Logan Reardon 2-4, Adam Moore 2 BBs, Tanner Davis 2 BBs, Joe Ingram 2 BBs, Chance Foss 2 RBIs, Randy Skiff 1-4 RBI
LP — Davis 3IP, 3K, 2BB, 6H, 4ER
Josh Rudd 3IP, 0K, 2BB, 1H, 0ER