BELLEVILLE — Belleville West pounded out 13 hits against three O'Fallon pitchers and added to the logjam at the top of the Southwestern Conference on Thursday as they defeated the Panthers 9-5.
West (16-9) pulled into a first-place tie with the Panthers (20-9), both of whom are 9-3 in the conference. Edwardsville (22-8), which drubbed Granite City 11-1 on Thursday, is 9-4 in the league.
"It's been like that the entire season," Maroons coach Lee Meyer said. "We said going into the conference, this year you could flip a coin about every conference game and any team could win. That's held true, and we knew today was going to be a dogfight."
Senior Nick Van Osdale had two hits and three RBIs for the Maroons. Junior Parker Beine was 3-for-3 with an RBI, while senior Aaron Meyer was 2-for-2 with an RBI.
Senior Cory Renois had two hits and worked five innings for the win, and senior catcher Austin Bammer had two RBIs.
Each of the Maroons' 13 hits were singles.
"Our bats are starting to come around a little bit," Lee Meyer said. "We're doing a better job in practice as far as hitting the ball and squaring the ball, and now it's starting to carry over to the games. They've been persistent with it all year. Now it's just believing we can do it."
The Maroons took the lead for good at 4-3 with a two-run fourth despite not getting the ball out of the infield.
With one out, Bammer walked against junior right-hander Blake Deatherage (5-1) and was replaced by courtesy runner Matt Klosterman. Renois' infield single put runners at first and second.
Senior Donnie Foster hammered a grounder to junior shortstop Colin Holton, whose throw to senior second baseman Isaiah Sarpy forced courtesy runner Ethan Lewis.
But Sarpy's throw to first to complete a double play pulled senior Jacob Jarvis off the bag, and Foster collided with Jarvis. Klosterman scored as Jarvis and Foster untangled themselves.
O'Fallon coach Jason Portz asked the umpires to declare the play dead after the collision, which would have sent Klosterman back to third. The umpires huddled for about a minute before determining the play would stand, and the game was tied at 3.
"I just feel like it could have been a dead ball," Portz said. "Two players were tangled up and the runner was not scoring on the play until their player was inadvertently laying on our player."
Deatherage then walked Sharos. Senior Ethan Wild relieved and issued consecutive walks to senior Adam Bauer and Aaron Meyer to force in the go-ahead run.
The Maroons then put the game out of reach with a five-run sixth against Wild and senior Robert Guithues. Sharos, Van Osdale and Beine had run-scoring singles and Bammer had a two-run single.
Renois permitted three runs (two earned) on four hits, with two walks and three strikeouts. Sophomore Jacob Wilson pitched a scoreless sixth before running into trouble in the seventh when he was relieved by Aaron Meyer, who got the final two outs.
"He battled out there," Lee Meyer said of Renois (4-0). "He had some long innings and his pitch count got up to around 100. He's going to compete every time on the mound. We know what to expect out of him and he gives us everything he has every time out."
Van Osdale's sacrifice fly gave the Maroons a 1-0 lead in the first. O'Fallon took a 3-1 lead in the third on a fielder's choice, an error and a sacrifice fly. West got within 3-2 in the third when Van Osdale blooped a single to right that scored Sharos.
The Maroons made three stellar defensive plays in the first three innings. Center fielder Sharos made a diving play in the gap to end the first, third baseman Foster leaped to snag freshman Bradley Harrison's bases-loaded liner to end the second and second baseman Van Osdale smothered a smash by senior Brenndon Tindall and flipped to shortstop Aaron Meyer to end the third.
"That's one thing we've been consistent with all year --our defense," Lee Meyer said. "Pitching and defense are the reasons we're winning quite a few games, and we always felt the bats would come around."
O'Fallon also had its moments on defense, ending the second and third innings with double plays. But the Panthers managed just six hits, including five singles, and stranded 10 runners.
"Games like this don't make or break your season," Portz said. "If your kids think that a game like today makes or breaks your season, then it will. You can't have that happen."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.