ALTON – Timely power and precision pitching went a long way for the Metro East Bears on Tuesday.
They made a dozen runs on five hits and walloped Highland, 12-2, in a seven-inning Senior Legion District 22 playoff baseball game at Hopkins Field.
The Bears improved to 22-6 in defeating Highland for the third time this season. Metro East is 1-0 in the district playoffs. Highland is 13-13 overall and 1-1 in the seven-team, double-elimination tournament.
Troy and Smithton have already been ousted. Metro East plays host to Fairview Heights at 7:30 Wednesday in a pivotal matchup. The winner advances to the Fifth Division Tournament next week at New Baden. The loser will have to win the remainder of its district games to qualify for the division tourney.
“It was a big win over Highland and whoever wins Wednesday’s game is automatically in the Fifth Division tournament,” Bears’ manager Ken Schaake said.
Unbeaten Tommy Flack, winner of six games, is expected to go against Fairview Heights. He already owns 2-1 and 10-0 victories over Fairview.
“Your next game is always the biggest one in the playoffs,” said Drew Curtis, the power broker against Highland.
The Bears’ first baseman hit a two-run home run in the third and a solo shot in the fourth. Teammate Ray Bailey connected on a solo home run. Curtis drove in three runs and Bailey had two RBIs.
“Drew has power to all fields and when he is hot, he has all the confidence in the world,” Metro East manager Ken Schaake said.
Highland manager Harry Painter added, “He (Curtis) hit a couple of screamers. He has a quick, short compact swing.”
Nick Paulda added a two-run double and Austin Stilts chipped in with a pair of RBIs. Winning pitcher Dalton Archer worked around three errors in a complete-game effort. He gave up five hits, including a pair of hits and two runs in the first inning.
Highland led 2-0 before Metro East scored 12 unanswered runs. The 10-run margin shortened the game by two innings.
“We had errors all over the place and gave up too many walks,” Painter said. “I don’t know what happened. The wheels starting falling off in the second inning and Archer settled in for them. He threw an excellent game.”