ALTON — Clutch pitching by Metro East starter Jacob St. Peters, along with two-out hitting, lifted the Bears past Fairview Heights on Wednesday at Lloyd Hopkins Field in Alton.
St. Peters went 6.2 innings and allowed just two runs on five hits in Metro East's 6-2 victory over Fairview Heights in the winner's bracket of the District 22 playoffs.
"I was able to keep the ball down low. My defense helped me a lot," said St. Peters, who struck out three and walked four.
The Bears (20-6) are the only unbeaten team remaining and will play at 5 p.m. Friday against the winner of Fairview Heights and Belleville, which play tonight. Belleville stayed alive Wednesday by defeating Highland 5-1. If Metro East loses Friday, it will then turn around and play Saturday to
determine which team will represent the district in the Fifth Division Tournament.
Wednesday against the Giants, it was clutch two-out hitting that supported Peters and lifted the Bears to their third straight win.
Five of Metro East's six runs came with two outs, including a two-run triple by Caleb Buhs in the seventh inning that put the game away.
"They took advantage. When the opportunity was there, we didn't strand (runners) like we had before. We made contact and pushed runners in," Metro East manager Ken Schaake said.
The Giants (17-11-1) weren't as fortunate with runners on base. They stranded 10 runners, including the bases loaded with one out in the fifth and ninth innings.
"They got the two-out hits. We had the bases loaded twice and couldn't get the clutch hit to bring them around. They executed and we didn't," Fairview Heights manager Craig Steiner said.
Metro East grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning off Fairview Heights starter Blake Deatherage.
Connor Melton, hitting in the eighth spot for the Bears, walked with two out, advanced to second on the ensuing walk to Anthony Kindle and then took third on a wild pitch. Drake Hampton followed with a single through the left side to score Melton.
The Bears added to the lead in the fourth, and it was again sparked by the bottom of the lineup. Singles by Buhs and Kindle, along with a walk to Melton, loaded the bases. Hampton hit into a double play, but
it allowed Buhs to score and Melton to get to third. Jordan Hovey then came through with a two-out hit to right to up the lead to 3-0.
The Bears weren't done, as Aaron Jackson crushed a triple to center to score Hovey for the 4-0 advantage. It was the fourth triple in three games for Jackson.
"It's nice knowing that the whole lineup can produce at any time," Buhs said.
St. Peters, who was cruising through the first four innings, ran into self-inflicted trouble in the fifth. With one out, he walked two and hit a batter to load the bases.
St. Peters, though, would strike out Nick Crabtree and get Brady Schanuel to bounce out to first to get out of the jam.
"I feel like that really closed the door on them and gave us so much momentum," St. Peters said.
Steiner said the inning "got the guys down and took energy away."
In the seventh, the Giants finally got to St. Peters. Jackson Penrod led off with a single and Dillon Ritter reached on a double when Bears center fielder Matt Zielonko slipped when trying to find the ball in the half-working lights.
Penrod then scored on a wild pitch and Chris Dye brought in Ritter with a groundout.
After a two-out single by Crabtree, the Bears turned to Kory Loew to shut the door out of the bullpen. He struck out Schanuel to end the threat.
"Kory Loew came in and pretty much slammed the door on them," Schaake said.
The Bears got the runs back quickly in the bottom of the seventh with Buhs' two-run triple into the right-field corner with two outs that scored Zielonko and Maverick McSparin, who each singled, off reliever Jeff Carringer.
"He started me with two curveballs, and I figured I would see a third one. He threw one right there and got the bat on it. It worked out for me," Buhs said. "We really needed the runs there."
Fairview Heights threatened one last time in the ninth off Loew. The Giants loaded the bases, and the Bears were forced to turn to Hampton for the final two outs with the tying run at the plate. He got
Crabtree to pop up on the infield and then Schanuel to bounce out to end the game.
"(Hampton) gets their Nos. 2 and 3 hitters out," Schaake said. "That's big."
Hovey, Zielonko and Buhs each had two hits for the Bears, who finished with 11.
Now, the Bears can enjoy a day off before entertaining either Fairview Heights again or Belleville on Friday at Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park.
Thursday's winner must beat the Bears twice to advance to the Fifth Division.
"The chances are good for us," St. Peters said.
DISTRICT 22 PLAYOFFS
METRO EAST BEARS 6, FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS 2
Fairview Heights 000 000 200 — 2 6 1
Metro East 010 300 20X — 6 11 1
GIANTS (17-11-1) — Dominic Blaylock 1-3 BB HBP, Nick Crabtree 1-5, Brady
Schanuel 1-4 BB, Jackson Penrod 1-4, Dillon Ritter 2-3 2B BB, Chris
Dye 0-3 BB RBI.
LP: Blake Deatherage 4.0IP 1K 4BB 7 H 4R 4ER
Jeff Carringer 4.0IP 0K 1BB 4H 2R 2ER
BEARS (20-6) — Drake Hampton 1-5 RBI, Jordan Hovey 2-4 2B BB SB RBI, Aaron
Jackson 1-5 3B RBI, Matt Zielonko 2-4 2B, Nick Paulda 1-3 BB, Maverick
McSparin 1-4, Caleb Buhs 2-4 3B 2 RBIs, Connor Melton 0-2 2 BB,
Anthony Kindle 1-3 BB.
WP: Jacob St. Peters 6.2IP 3K 4BB 5H 2R 2ER
Kory Loew 1.2IP 2K 0BB 1H 1HBP 1H 0R 0ER
Drake Hampton 0.2IP 0K 0BB 0H 0R 0ER