BELLEVILLE — In a Southwestern Conference baseball thrill ride Tuesday, Belleville East's Anthony Garza made sure the Lancers left the roller coaster with smiles on their faces.
Belleville East led 4-0, then trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh before Garza's two-run double provided a 6-5 victory over the Edwardsville Tigers.
"It was kind of scary actually, we just held in there as a team," said Garza, who stroked a double to the gap in left-center off Edwardsville reliever Matt Owens. "It was a fastball, he kind of left it over the plate. I'm just trying to get a base hit and got a hold of it a little bit. I just figured I had to get those two guys in somehow."
Belleville East coach Todd Blomberg appreciated the exciting finish, but could have used a bit less drama in the final two innings.
"We went from 'Man we're playing really well up 4-0, to 'Holy crud it's tied' to 'Holy crud we're losing' to 'Oh my God we won," said Blomberg, whose team is 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the SWC. "So it was quite the range of emotions there. It was a great high school baseball game."
Garza had three RBIs on the day, including an RBI single in the third.
"Garza's one a great job for us this spring," Blomberg said. "Right now, the way he's swinging the bat I would rather not have anybody else up except him."
Belleville East starter Sam Bassett had Edwardsville (4-3 overall, 0-2 in the SWC) shut out on two hits through five innings and a 4-0 lead.
But the Tigers rallied for four runs in the sixth on a sacrifice flyby Alec Pizzini, Jordan Hovey's bases-loaded walk and a pinch-hit, two-run single by Tyler Worthey off Belleville East reliever Marty Brunk.
Edwardsville took the lead in the top of the seventh when Jacob Fisher walked, stole second, then scored all the way from a second on a wild pitch.
The ball bounced away from East catcher Lucas Weisbrodt and rolled around the brick backstop with Fisher flying around the bases.
"I don't think I would have been able to stop him," Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said." We've been talking a lot about playing every pitch and he was off right from the get-(go). I was telling him 'Go, go,' but he was almost already past me.
"It was a good read, a heads up play and awareness of the situation."
Danny Snyder singled to lead off the Belleville East seventh. Brandon Hoguet drew a one-out walk to bring up Garza, who sent everyone home on a chilly afternoon.
" I'm not trying to jack home runs and do all that, just get base hits for my team," Garza said.
"It was a tough one," Funkhouser said. "We showed some fight to get back into the game and then to take the lead. It's unfortunate we didn't finish it off. Their kid got a big hit there and we could have done some things better ourselves, coming through with a hit or fighting off a pitch with two strikes or making a play.
"That would have been a nice one to win."
Bassett struck out seven in the first five innings and completely silenced the Edwardsville bats. He finally ran into trouble in the sixth and was reluctantly replaced by Blomberg.
"He started losing his command, because I thought he was pinpoint for the first five innings," Blomberg said. "I dreaded taking him out, but I just felt like it was the right time. It's early in the year and he started laboring a little bit. If this was maybe the end of April or early May, I think he finishes the game strong."
Dean Gerros hit an RBI single in the second to give East the lead. The Lancers added three runs in the third on an RBI double by Brunk, Garza's run-scoring single and Edwardsville reliever Cole Hagen hitting Parker Hendricks with his first pitch to force in a run.
"Three of our last four games have been like this and they've all been one-run losses," Funkhouser said. "We've had kind of a tough road where we've faced everybody ace and sometimes their No 1 and 2. That's going to only make us better and we're in it for the long run.
"We need to keep fighting now until we get things rolling."
Blomberg's team had played only four games before Tuesday, so nailing down a big conference win could provide a spark.
"To come out and perform like this is a big feather in our cap," he said. "Our kids are just beaming confidence right now."