FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The Belleville Hilgards got yet another quality pitching performance in the playoffs.
Bryce Richter threw eight shutout innings as the Hilgards blanked the Aviston Express 8-0 Monday in the opening round of the American Legion Fifth Division Tournament.
"So far that has been kind of the story for us, not only in the playoffs but the last three or four weeks,'' Belleville manager Zach Rakowski said. "Our pitchers have done a great job. The front three in the rotation have led the way on that, and Bryce did that today.''
Richter allowed six hits, while striking out 11 and walking one.
"Me and my catcher (Austin Bammer) had some pretty good chemistry going today,'' Richter said. "It was working well. It was fun.''
Richter didn't allow a hit from the third through six innings. He gave up back-to-back singles to Gavin Thomas and Luke Jackson to lead off the eighth, but escaped the jam with a pop out to Bammer and two strikeouts.
"Bryce just did a really good job of working ahead and pounding the strike zone,'' Rakowski said. "He wasn't wasting pitches unless it was where he wanted to throw it. He was just focused, locked in and did a really good job.''
Richter's curveball was especially effective.
"The humidity -- the air quality today was just perfection,'' Richter said of his cuveball.
Richter also kept Aviston off the scoreboard during a 2-0 win by the Hilgards earlier this season.
"He kept us off balance,'' Aviston manager Bryan Tebbe said. "We faced him before and we didn't score off of him over in Belleville. It's tough when it has been 15 straight innings with not scoring a run off a guy. You have to tip your hat to a good pitcher.''
Alex Sandheinrich worked the ninth inning for the Hilgards, giving up two singles to start the inning but preserving the shutout by inducing a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
"If you can avoid it this first game or two, you don't want to have games that just get away from you and you're burning through pitchers,'' Rakowski said. "If you can get eight from your starter and Alex comes in and throws a quick one inning, it keeps everybody fresh.''
Belleville (30-12) advances to the second round, where it'll meet Murphysboro (27-5) at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Express (16-9) are faced with the task of trying to climb out of the loser's bracket in the double-elimination tourney. They'll play or Louisville (15-3) at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The Express had eight hits and stranded 11 runners against the Hilgards.
"We had runners on all day, and we just couldn't get that big hit to score runs,'' Tebbe said.
Cory Renois drove in Belleville's first two runs with a sacrifice fly and RBI ground out.
In the first inning, Adam Bauer singled, stole second and third and scored on Renois' sacrifice fly.
Aaron Meyer led off the third with a double, moved to third on a ground out by Jason Klein and scored on Renois' ground out to the third baseman.
The Hilgards made it 3-0 when Bammer doubled and scored on an error in the fourth inning.
The Express pulled starting pitcher Mitchell Langenhorst due to arm soreness after four innings.
The Hilgards got a run in the fifth on an RBI double by Klein and then broke open the game with four runs in the sixth.
The key hits during the rally where a two-run double by Meyer and a two-run single by Klein, who went 3-for-5 in the game.
Edwardsville 7, Steeleville 0
Jevon Boyd lost his perfect game in the top of the seventh inning, but he still finished with a one-hit shutout as Edwardsville topped Steeleville.
"In my whole pitching career, that was either my best or second best (game) behind when I won the sectional championship (for Edwardsville) against Normal West,'' Boyd said. "Today, I did what I always try to do, and that's pound the strike zone with fastballs. Once they start catching on to it, I start throwing my slider over.
Steeleville pitcher Caleb Arbeiter collected the lone hit off Boyd with a single leading off the seventh inning.
Arbeiter was erased from the base paths when the next better grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Boyd said he was unaware that he had perfect game going.
"I didn't even know I had perfect game or a no-hitter,'' Boyd said. "Once he got the hit, Devin (Breihan) at first base said, 'He broke up the perfect game.' I was like, 'Oh, wow.' I try not think about that kind of stuff.''
Boyd, who pitched for Kaskaskia College in the spring, finished with nine strikeouts and one walk.
"He pitched fantastic game,'' Steeleville coach Darryl Winkelman said of Boyd. "We just couldn't get around on him. I thought my guy, Arbeiter, pitched a heck of a ballgame, too.''
Arbeiter, who struck out 12, held Edwardsville scoreless until the seventh inning.
Edwardsville's first run scored on a delayed double steal with Danny Robertson coming home from third on throw down to second base.
"It was supposed to be cutoff by the second baseman, and he just dropped it when he tried to catch it,'' Winkelman said. "In hindsight, we probably shouldn't have thrown down. But, if he would have caught it, we would have gotten the guy at home. We just didn't execute a play.''
Alec Pizzini had a two-run single during a four-run rally by Edwardsville in the eighth inning.
Edwardsville banged out 14 hits with Boyd going 3-for-5 and Robertson going 3-for-4 with a triple to lead the way.
Edwardsville (25-6) will play host Fairview Heights (15-17) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, while Steeleville will play Effingham (14-10) at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Fairview Heights 13, Effingham 6
Jake Jarvis went 3-for-5 with a homer, Anthony Garza went 3-for-3 with two doubles and Brenndon Tindall went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs as Fairview Heights slugged its way past Effingham.
The switch from wood bats, which are used in District 22 play, to metal bats seemed to spark Fairview Heights' offense.
"We came hitting from the start,'' Fairiview Heights coach Craig Steiner said. "The metal bats made a big difference. We had a bunch of doubles.''
Starter Ethan Wild worked into the seventh inning for Fairview Heights, but he was relieved by Andrew Witkowski after allowing five runs.
Witkowski shut the door on Effingham the rest of the way to pick up a save.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.