BELLEVILLE — Not wanting to allow Fairview Heights to force a second game for the District 22 South Division championship, the Belleville Hilgards turned to Parker Beine on a steamy Thursday night.
Beine slammed the door shut by holding Fairview Heights to five hits in a nine-inning, complete-game performance as the Hilgards won 8-1 to claim the South Division tournament title.
Beine allowed one run on a second-inning squeeze bunt and finished up with seven straight scoreless innings, striking out four.
"That was huge," Belleville manager Zach Rakowski said of Beine, who had little difficulty after the first two innings. "We needed a good start from him. Parker kind of felt his way through early in the season and he's really come on strong late.
"This is just an extension of the good job he's been doing the last four or five times out."
The Hilgards, who blanked Fairview Heights 2-0 on Monday, allowed one run in 27 innings during the South Division Tournament. Beine worked 11 innings and allowed one run.
Belleville (29-12) advances to the Fifth Division Tournament at Moody Park in Fairview Heights and will open up with a 10 a.m. game Monday.
Fairview Heights (14-17) also advances as the host team.
Along with those two teams, the other Fifth Division qualifiers are Aviston and Efffingham, from District 23, Louisville, from District 24, and Murphysboro and Steeleville.
Thursday marked the fourth time this season that Belleville has beaten Fairview Heights and this one wasn't as close as some of the other games.
Rakowski said the Hilgards set lofty goals each season.
"When you start out the summer you set goals and the first thing is to win the league for the South, we were able to do that," he said. "The next is to win the South tournament and we were able to do that, too. It just kind of validates the regular-season that we've had, so it makes you feel really good."
While Belleville lacks a true slugger, the Hilgards specialize in getting big hits at the right time. On Thursday those came from Austin Bevenue, Jason Klein, Bryce Richter, Luke Frazier and Missouri State recruit Aaron Meyer.
"That's kind of been the thing all year," Rakowski said. "I've heard a lot of parents comment on that, every day it's been a different guy that's been able to come up big for us."
Fairview Heights used a leadoff walk and a Belleville error to help push across a run in the second on a squeeze bunt by Jake Warren.
Belleville answered with three runs in the second after singles by Brendan Saak and Austin Bammer and a walk to Frazier loaded the bases with no outs.
Bevenue, who plays for Knox College, bounced a two-run single past third base to put the Hilgards on top. Fairview Heights manager Craig Steiner quickly removed starter Sam Bassett, perhaps hoping to avoid an injury.
"He told our pitching coach that something felt a little tight in there," Steiner said. "We tried to get him to throw in the first inning to see if it loosened up. When he got in the second inning we could see that he didn't have the velocity that he normally throws with, and we could see that he just wasn't there."
Steiner removed Bassett and brought in reliever Tyler Scimio, who allowed one more run on Adam Bauer's sacrifice fly.
The Hilgards tacked on three more runs after loading the bases in the fifth against Scimio.
Singles by Atlee Champion, Adam Bauer and Meyer preceded a two-run single by Klein. Richter's run-scoring single made it 6-1 and gave Beine a little more breathing room.
With Fairview threatening to ignite a rally in the seventh, Meyer snuffed it out when he leaped high to snare a line drive off the bat of Robert Guithues.
Frazier made it 8-1 in the seventh with a double into the left-field corner.