BELLEVILLE — After some emotional Southwestern Conference baseball wins earlier this season, the Belleville East Lancers banged out a relatively drama-free 6-1 win over Belleville West on Thursday.
Belleville East right-hander Sam Bassett did his best to remove any positive emotion from the Maroons, holding them to three hits while striking out eight.
"This conference is crazy, everybody's beating everybody ... losing to everybody," Bassett said after helping East (8-3 overall, 4-1 in the SWC) pull into a tie for first with O'Fallon. "It's bizarre. It was pretty nice to have a normal game for once; I enjoyed it."
There was nothing enjoyable about it for the Maroons (9-5, 3-2) as their pitchers were banged around by the Lancers.
Parker Hendricks was 3-for-4 for East with a two-run double in the first and an RBI double in the fourth, while Marty Brunk was 3-for-4 with an RBI double.
Neither was hitting above .267 before Thursday, but their bats --like those of their teammates -- are heating up.
East coach Todd Blomberg wasn't gloating after the win.
"I'd still like to be under the radar and hope nobody mentions us," he said. "These kids have worked hard and I think the reason we weren't getting much attention (in the preseason) was we turned over a lot of guys.
"We had a lot of seniors that graduated and we had some unproven guys coming in. We knew we had good players coming back, but nobody really knew our kids."
Bassett (2-0) has 29 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings this season and carved up the West lineup on a cold and windy afternoon.
"My curveball was working pretty well, though I think the wind was kind of helping that, too," he said. "I felt like I was placing it pretty well and obviously the defense behind me was just terrific today. Three double plays turned in crucial moments really helped the win."
Bassett helped himself in the third inning after Aaron Meyer and Nick Van Osdale reached safely with no outs. The hard-throwing right-hander regrouped quickly and struck out the next three hitters in succession, then held West to one hit over the next four innings.
"If we can push one or two across there we'd have a whole different outcome," West coach Lee Meyer said. "I think that was the turning point in the game. He made great pitches.
"I thought he mixed up his pitches well. He got ahead of us and put us in the hole a little bit and then we became defensive swingers."
Hendricks belted a two-run double in the first on an 0-2 pitch from West starter Parker Beine (2-3) to put the Lancers on top.
Austin Bammer's RBI double got a run back for the Maroons in the first, but the Lancers scored two more in the third on a wild pitch and an error.
East rewarded Bassett for escaping damage in the third with two more runs in the fourth on RBI doubles from Brunk and Hendricks.
"They swung the bats very well," Meyer said of the Lancers. "Even their swings and misses I felt like they were right on our pitches, they did a good job with the bats today. They went up there aggressive and attacked the strikes and hit the ball hard."
West suffered its second straight SWC loss and has lost four of its last six games.
"We're getting pretty good defense and pitching," Meyer said. "Our bats will come around, I've got a lot of confidence in our guys."
Bassett is the youngest of three brothers that have played for East.
"We've been happy to have them, it paid off today," Blomberg said. "We played about as good a game as I can remember in a long time. We were pretty solid today and it came against a very good Belleville West team."
O'Fallon 3, Alton 2
O'Fallon (10-6) improved to 4-1 in the SWC as Collin Holton got a squeeze bunt down against Alton reliever Charlie Howard in the bottom of the seventh to chase Isaiah Sarpy home with the winning run.
Sarpy led off the seventh with a single, went to second on a botched pickoff attempt that hit him, then reached third on a single by Brenndon Tindall.
Holton took over from there, but getting a bunt down wasn't easy.
"The ball was literally at Holton's chest -- and what an outstanding job of handling the bat," O'Fallon coach Jason Portz said on his part. "Collin's a really gritty player; if he wasn't going to bunt it, he was going to put his teeth in front of it to get it accomplished."
O'Fallon's Jeff Haas had three hits and two RBIs, including a two-run double. Panthers pitcher Tyler Herbert got the win with three shutout innings. holding Alton (11-3, 1-3) to one hit.