Photo by Caleb Motsinger
Alton relief pitcher Matt Hopkins winds up in the 11th inning of Tuesday’s conference loss to Belleville East.
The smell of rain began to fill the air in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday night when the Alton Redbirds and the Belleville East Lancers began Southwestern Conference play at Lloyd Hopkins Field in Alton.
Though inclement weather has plagued both teams all season long, it was the Lancers who held on to win the rainy day ballgame 7-4, using 13 innings to bring Alton’s record to 6-3 in a knock-down-drag-out contest between two young, yet tenacious teams.
“Both teams are young and we both grew up a lot tonight,” Redbirds coach Todd Haug said. “Unfortunately, we got the short end of the stick and are going to go home unhappy tonight. We learned a lot from this game and we’re going to treat it as a learning experience.”
The Lancers have lost two games to Jersey and one to Mascoutah, moving their record to 3-3, with prior wins over Class 2A teams Dupo and Wesclin.
Though either team battled through the evening storm, East sealed the deal with four runs in the top of the 12th inning.
“The 12th inning didn’t indicate how we played the entire game,” Haug said. “But you can’t spot a team six runs on six errors and expect a win.”
Alton’s Clint Cress had a two-run single in the second inning, followed by Drake Hampton’s RBI single to start the Redbirds off with 3-0 lead. But regardless of Alton’s stellar lineup, averaging a conference-best 10.8 runs per game, they were shut out for nine straight innings by East’s Brady Schanuel and Mitch Harlan.
“Schanuel and Harlan were very intricate to that win,” East coach Todd Blomberg said. “We’re not bringing back much very experience, but our kids came out and battled inning after inning. Today’s game says a lot about them.”
Schanuel started out on the mound for the Lancers and went six-plus innings before Harlan took over in the seventh. Harlan then pitched six innings, surrendering a single run in the 12th to give his team the win.
East outhit Alton 15-8 and the Redbirds’ errors led to six unearned runs for the Lancers, with three of those errors coming in the 12th inning. The Lancers got five hits off Alton’s relief pitcher Matt Hopkins as he threw his fourth inning.
The top four of the Redbirds’ lineup, including two .500-plus hitters, Nick Paulda and Matt Hopkins, finished 1-for-20, with Hopkins getting the lone hit.
Bonnell and Cress each had two hits and Bryan Hudson went 1-for-1 with four walks for the Redbirds.
The Redbirds will be back in action against conference rival the Edwardsville Tigers at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Edwardsville High School.