EDWARDSVILLE — With two outs and the go-ahead run at third base in the seventh inning Friday, Belleville West coach Lee Meyer decided to roll the dice.
The Maroons pulled off a perfectly executed double steal to highlight a two-run rally that secured a 2-1 win over the Edwardsville Tigers in the Southwestern Conference opener for both teams.
"Our bats just didn't come alive today, and we tried to make something happen," Meyer said. "It worked out our way."
Edwardsville led 1-0 entering the seventh. But with one out, West's Austin Bammer singled against reliever Alex Meyers --just the second hit of the game for the Maroons.
Jacob Wilson hit a sharp one-hopper to Meyers, who got the out at first rather than start a potential game-ending double play. Alex Sharos followed with an RBI triple to right that plated courtesy runner Ethan Lewis to make it 1-1.
Parker Beine walked, and when Meyers turned his back on Beine at first, Beine deftly broke for second.
Meyers' throw to shortstop Jordan Heckler was too late as Sharos raced for home. Heckler's throw to the plate also was tardy, and Sharos slid across with what proved to be the winning run.
"We work on that," said Meyer, whose team improved to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the SWC. "It depends on who's coming up in the order and it depends on who we have on base. We found a way to win. We needed to be more aggressive.
"It's a risky play ... but we've got confidence in both those guys running. They executed it well."
Beine, who relieved in the sixth, pitched around a two-out jam in the seventh, stranding Heckler at second base when he struck out Jordan Hovey to end the game.
Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser lamented his team's lack of attention in defending the Maroons' double-steal.
"We just got caught sleeping," he said. "I saw the play developing; we had a lot of guys fall asleep out there, and then (we) didn't execute once we identified the play. That was probably the most disappointing thing of the inning, giving them that second run, because the first run I thought they deserved."
The Tigers (3-1, 0-1) took a 1-0 lead in the first against Cory Renois. Heckler doubled and Hovey walked before Drew Curtis hit a comebacker to Renois.
Renois' throw to shortstop Aaron Meyer pulled Meyer off the base, and Hovey was safe. Meyer got the out at first, but the Tigers had runners at second and third with one out.
Alec Pizzini put Edwardsville on top with a sacrifice fly to center, but Renois stranded Hovey.
Cole Hagen blanked West on one hit, a single by Sharos in the fifth, and struck out five in five innings before being relieved by Meyers.
Renois was almost equally effective despite command issues. He lasted five innings, allowed one hit, walked five and fanned three.
Edwardsville was one out away from the win when Sharos delivered his triple against the wall in right.
"He's an exciting player; he gets very excited," Lee Meyer said. "He's an emotional kid. He's very competitive. He's like a tornado with no direction, and sometimes I have to reel him in. He's a gamer. He's started off this season real well because I don't think he's pressing. I think he pressed a little bit in the past."
Right fielder Matt Zielonko might have had a chance to catch Sharos' drive, but the Tigers' outfield was playing shallow. Zielonko had made a nice running catch to rob Adam Bauer of a hit to open the seventh.
"Zielonko made a heck of a play on that first ball in the gap, and I thought he got a good read (on Sharos' triple)," Funkhouser said. "We had the outfield playing in to take away the flare in front and he just happened to hit one over us.
"The percentages are going to say it's going to work out for us, but it just didn't there. Their kid had a nice swing. It was a well-located pitch, but he got it with enough of the barrel that it carried. (Zielonko) just couldn't track it down."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.