BETHALTO — Drew Curtis and his teammates with Edwardsville Post 199 are getting a bonus chance at the thrill of playoff baseball.
The St. Louis University recruit went 3-for-6 with three RBIs and Jordan Heckler went 4-for-5 in leading Edwardsville Post 199 to a 13-6 win over Highland Post 439 on Tuesday in the championship game of the American Legion District 22 North Division Tournament.
Edwardsville improved to 24-6 and advanced to the Fifth Division Tournament, which starts Monday in Fairview Heights, for the first time since 2008.
Edwardsville's postseason run has been a welcome surprise for Curtis after his senior season at Edwardsville High School was abruptly ended by a 2-0 loss to Alton in the championship game of the regional.
"It feels good to win again," Curtis said. "When we lost that regional for high school, I'm not going to lie, I thought it was the last playoff experience I was going to have a while. The atmosphere out here, it gets intense. You have to love that about baseball. It's hard not to."
Both teams collected 16 hits in the game, but the Tigers were able to capitialize on their scoring opportunities, especially during a seven-run, seventh-inning rally that was highlighted by Chase McPeak's two-run double.
Every player in Edwardsville's lineup except Danny Robertson hit safetly in the game. Robertson still reached base and scored twice after being hit by pitches.
"When you get production from the whole lineup, it's hard to lose," Curtis said. "To score 13 runs against a good team and good pitching, you can't be happier."
Edwardsville took care of business even though Highland, which was coming out of the loser's bracket, needed to beat it twice to win the double-elimination tournament.
"Anybody who is in a position where somebody has to beat you twice wants to win it on the first game as opposed to letting them get a little momentum after they beat you the first game," Edwardsville coach Ken Schaake said. "Maybe your players get down a little bit and anything can happen in one game."
Highland ended its season with a 23-9 record. It was faced with the tough task of playing its third game in 24 hours with the hope of forcing a fourth game.
"When knew coming in here that we had a shot if we could win this one," Highland manager Harry Painter said. "Anything can happen in that last game. We were in it for a while, but we ran out of pitching. What else? We had four league games -- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday -- and started the playoffs with nine-inning games on Saturday. You just burn people."
Edwardsville scored two runs in the first inning and added a run in the second on Blake Graham's double to go up 3-0.
Highland answered with three runs in the bottom of the second inning on five consecutive singles and a bases-loaded walk.
Eastern Illinois University recruit Jake Haberer scored on a sacrifice fly by Brendan Dubach in the third to put Highland ahead 4-3.
"Deep down the way they played yesterday and the way they were talking in the dugout, I think there was still a belief that we could do this," Painter said.
Edwardsville regained the lead in the fourth and then padded it with seven-run explosion in the seventh.
Edwardsville starter Cole Hagen battled his way through seven innings. It wasn't pretty as evidenced by the 13 hits he surrendered and the four walks he issued, but he managed to limit the damage.
"Cole did a great job out there," Schaake said. "He didn't have his best stuff, his best control or anything like that, but he didn't quit."
Spencer Holzinger and Dubach each had four hits for Highland, which also committed five errors in the game.
"I don't think we had more than three in a game all year," Painter said. "In fact, we played errorless the last two or three games."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.