Illinois all-stars get the job done and knock off Missouri to end losing streak

News-DemocratJune 15, 2013 

— Maybe it was because they were the home team and using the St. Louis Cardinals dugout at Busch Stadium.

But whatever the factors, the Illinois all-stars ended a three-year losing streak against Missouri at the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase with a 9-7 victory Friday at Busch Stadium.

"To be honest I did not know anything about the streak," said O'Fallon catcher Brenndon Tindall, whose three-run triple highlighted a four-run sixth inning that put the Illinois all-stars on top to stay. "We've got a good team behind us, we just came here to play and it showed out on the scoreboard."

Edwardsville center fielder Blake Graham also was a big offensive catalyst for Illinois. The Heartland College recruit had a double among his four hits and reached base five times, also scoring four runs.

"It was fun," said Graham, who also had a diving catch in center field. "It's all good experience for everybody, but it's definitely good to come out here and get a win.

"It was a good team win, it was a comeback win and a lot of guys came together and got some big hits."

Tindall and Graham were named the game's co-most valuable players.

They were the top two sluggers in the metro-east this season and Edwardsville's Drew Curtis and Triad's Keaton Wright left Busch Stadium with a few lasting memories.

In the pregame home run derby, Curtis ripped a home run that reached Big Mac Land in the second deck of left field.

"I've hit some hard ones, but to hit one out of Busch Stadium," said Curtis, who is headed for St. Louis University. "I knew I caught it. I didn't know how far it would go, but I knew I caught it. If you hit it that far you've got to get it all, no doubt about that."

Curtis did and he had the longest shot of the day.

Wright tied Curtis in the home run derby with two shots to the warning track, then won the competition when he blasted a homer to right during the tie-breaker.

"I knew that one was out right when I hit it," said Wright, who will play for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. "I didn't know if it was going to be gone, but I knew I was going to be at least one point."

Wright and Curtis are friends, but Wright hit a line drive last summer that hit Curtis' face so hard it required extensive surgery. On Friday they found themselves battling it out in the home run derby and Wright admired Curtis' long blast.

"He sure got into his by a ton," Wright said. "I didn't even know if mine was gone or not and it ended up going out. We're still really good friends, we talk all the time."

The Triad slugger came up big again during the game, when with the Illinois squad trailing 5-1 in the fifth inning, he crushed a two-run triple off the center-field fence.

Illinois would grab a 7-5 lead in the sixth on an RBI single by Curtis and Tindall's bases-loaded triple to the gap in left center. Tindall drove in two runs and a third scored when his ball was misplayed by the center fielder.

Illinois relievers Zach Sparks (Edwardsville), Cory Renois (Belleville West) and Ray Bailey (Alton) hung on from there to preserve the win.

Alton catcher Brent Gibbs had an RBI single in the first.

Curtis and his teammates had quite a day. They were treated to a steak luncheon, then got to play their final high school game at the home of the Cardinals.

The Edwardsville standout said there was only other home run he'd rank up there with his bomb on Friday.

"I had a walk-off called back against Highland, but other than that this one pretty awesome," Curtis said. "With all these great players here, guys that have been drafted and guys that are going to play college ball at D-1 schools ... getting to play at Busch Stadium again, it's awesome.

"You really couldn't ask for a better day. We get the whole stadium to ourselves and it's really an honor to be here."

Belleville East right-hander Sam Bassett had one of the few 1-2-3 innings of the night, tossing a scoreless fourth inning that included two strikeouts.

Bassett also benefited from a diving catch in center by Edwardsville's Blake Graham. But he also left the mound with a strikeout, creating a special feeling he won't soon forget.

"I struck someone out looking on my last pitch at Busch Stadium," said Bassett, who plans to study medicine at Murray State University and hopes to make the baseball team as a walk-on.

"To be able to play in the all-star game is such a treat and getting those two strikeouts made it that much better," Bassett said. "Every time I'd get up there on the mound I pictured this is where (Adam) Wainwright and (Chris) Carpenter pitch from, the same guys I watch on TV."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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