BELLEVILLE — The Southwestern Conference championship drought is a thing of the past for the Belleville West Maroons.
Senior Alex Sharos went 4-for-4 at the plate and made two outstanding defensive plays in center field while pitchers Cory Renois and Parker Beine held Collinsville in check Thursday, as the Maroons clinched a tie for their first SWC title since 2007 with a 5-2 win.
"I'm very proud of this baseball team and what we've been able to accomplish this season,'' Maroons coach Lee Meyer said. "They've worked very hard for this and deserve all the credit for their accomplishments.
"This was one our goals. To win a conference title in any sport in this conference is a great achievement.''
Setting the tone early, Sharos led off the game with a single and scored later in the opening inning on an Aaron Meyer single, as West grabbed an early 2-0 lead against Kahoks starter Paul Suess.
The win moves West to 10-3 in the SWC and 20-10 for the season. The Maroons hold a 1/2-game lead over O'Fallon (10-4) and Edwardsville (10-4) and can clinch the outright SWC title when it hosts East St. Louis (0-13) at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
O'Fallon squandered its opportunity to tie for the title when it lost to Belleville East 1-0 on Thursday.
The East St. Louis-Belleville West game was rescheduled from May 2, when West with holding an 11-2 lead with one out in the fifth inning, the game was halted by rain.
Southwestern Conference rules state that any game not going five full innings must be replayed from the start.
But following the 5-2 win over Collinsville, the Maroons had the look of a lone champion.
After Beine retired the side in the seventh inning, Maroons players celebrated by covering each other with ice cold water.
"It feels great. The pitching was great, Cory and Parker were outstanding and we were able to get big hits. It was a team effort all year. This (SWC) title is something we've wanted for a long time,'' Sharos said. "The last time I went 4-for-4? I don't remember. It's been a while. I was just glad to be able to help the team.''
Sheros was equally effective in the field.
Trailing 2-0 in the second inning, Collinsville loaded the bases with one out on three consecutive singles. Austin McEwen lofted a fly ball to center field that Sharos caught and then fired a strike to the plate to get the Kahoks' Tanner Houck, who was trying to score.
Sheros also made a diving catch on a line-drive hit by Houck in the fourth.
"To have Alex make a great defensive play is no surprise. He does it almost every night,'' Meyer said. "For him to come out and go 4-for4 was a bonus. He had a great game for us.''
Following the shaky start, Suess settled down holding West scoreless during the next four innings.
Renois was also breezing until the sixth, when a Zack Mathes' single cut the lead to 2-1.
Renois worked 5 2/3 innings before being relieved by Beine, who got out of a bases-loaded situation with two outs in the sixth.
"I thought Cory was outstanding tonight,'' Meyer said. "He got ahead of the hitters and we were able to play good defense behind him.''
Leading 2-1, West added two runs and chased Suess in the sixth, when Renois and Sharos had run-scoring singles.