EDWARDSVILLE — Seniors Sam Bassett and Anthony Garza were front and center for the Belleville East Lancers on Thursday.
Bassett threw a complete game and Garza walloped a three-run homer in the Lancers' four-run second inning that lifted them to a 5-1 victory over Edwardsville in a Southwestern Conference game.
"We were fortunate to have one good inning," East coach Todd Blomberg said. "Baseball's kind of a crazy sport. Sometimes one inning is all you need. We were lucky enough to have that one inning and we came out ahead today."
The Lancers improved to 15-8 overall and 7-3 in the SWC, moving into second place in the league. Edwardsville, which lost its second straight after winning 11 consecutive games, fell to 17-8 and 7-4.
Bassett, a deceptive right-hander, allowed seven hits, walked two and struck out two, boosting his record to 3-2.
Bassett escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth and worked around a first-and-second, no-out pinch in the seventh.
"I was happy," said Bassett. "They got hits throughout the game, but they never really amounted to anything, which I'm fortunate for because they had a couple of close situations where if they would have gotten a hit, they could have very easily come right back in this ballgame."
Senior Zack Sparks (5-2) took the loss for Edwardsville, surrendering five runs (four earned) on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Sparks allowed Garza's three-run homer and a squeeze bunt by junior Dominic Blaylock in the Lancers' big second.
Senior Marty Brunk opened the inning with a double and went to third on junior Parker Hendricks' single. Garza followed with his homer to right-center on a 3-1 pitch, putting the Lancers on top 3-0.
"He threw me two straight fastballs right in there," Garza said. "The first one, I had to let go. It was a 3-0 count; I had to be smart about that. The next one was in my wheelhouse and I got ahold of it.
"I didn't even know it went out. It was a gapper that just carried. I would have taken the gapper. There were two guys on and I was proud just to get those guys in. But I'll take three."
Blaylock added a perfectly executed squeeze bunt later in the inning, scoring senior courtesy runner Jack Hillebrand and giving Bassett plenty of breathing room.
Bassett also benefited from stellar defensive play, particularly from senior third baseman Brandon Hoguet, who had five assists.
"Zack wasn't as sharp in the second inning," Tigers coach Tim Funkhouser said. "He left a couple of pitches up after really working down in the zone. To their credit, their hitters were able to hit them. We had opportunities throughout the game with runners in scoring position, but we just couldn't come up with the big hit."
Edwardsville scored its lone run against Bassett in the third, climbing within 4-1. With two outs, senior Blake Graham doubled to right-center and scored on senior Jordan Heckler's single.
With two outs in the fourth, senior Alec Pizzini and freshman Jake Garella singled and junior Jacob Fisher walked. But Bassett retired sophomore Jordan Hovey on a grounder to second.
Hovey walked to lead off the seventh as light rain fell, and Graham followed with a single. After a conference on the mound, Bassett remained in the game and set down Heckler, senior Drew Curtis and junior Alex Meyers.
"I don't think hitters think he's going to throw very hard or anything, but he's sneaky-fast," Blomberg said of Bassett. "His ball comes in on you and he's got really good command of his off-speed pitches. When you can throw all those for strikes and also have a fastball that moves, you're going to be pretty good in high school."
Sparks retired nine in a row from the second through the fifth, a streak that ended when Blaylock doubled to right-center. But Blaylock was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit.
The Lancers added an insurance run against Sparks in the seventh.
Junior Dean Gerros walked and courtesy runner Hillebrand stole second before senior Nathan Schmittling walked.
Senior Max Rolens relieved Sparks to face senior Lucas Weisbrodt, who grounded to first baseman Curtis. Curtis' throw to shortstop Heckler forced Schmittling, but Heckler threw wildly past first when he went for the double play, allowing Hillebrand to score.
"That was really nice," Blomberg said. "We just took advantage of a mistake they made. When you can take advantage of mistakes good teams make, that's really a benefit, and we were able to do that."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.