FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — Like a drowning man gasping for air, Fairview Heights was given little room to breathe by Edwardsville Post 199 on Friday in the championship game of the Senior American Legion Fifth Division Tournament.
Chase McPeak spearheaded a five-run fourth inning with a two-run single while Matt Huelsmann and Jevon Boyd hit solo home runs as Edwardsville posted a 10-4 win on a rainy afternoon at Moody Park.
Needing just one win to clinch a bid in the Senior American Legion State Tournament, Edwardsville struck early and often against Fairview Heights starter Ethan Wild.
It got a run-scoring single from Drew Curtis in the first inning and Huelsmann's homer in the second, before breaking it open with a five-run fourth.
With Boyd, the District 22 North Division Player of the Year on the mound, Edwardsville (29-6) wasn't challenged the rest of the way as it clinched one of the six berths in the state tournament, which begins Wednesday in Trenton.
"I think it's always important if you can come out quickly and get a lead on an opponent. We wanted to do that and we did today,'' Boyd said. "Then it was up to me to get ahead of the hitters and let our defense make the plays.
"I had been close to getting to a state (tournament) before but came up short. Some of us had and some us hadn't, so to be able to get to a state tournament is big. It was one of our goals."
Edwardsville went 5-0 in the division tournament and veteran Legion coach Ken Schaake is eager to see how it stacks up against the state's best. Schaake led Edwardsville to a national championship in 1998.
"It's the state tournament. There only six teams who qualify -- including the host team -- and so to be able to play in the state tournament is a real accomplishment,'' he said. "Some of our kids have had the chance. Others have not come close. But for players and coaches, it's a great experience.
"I thought we came in here this week and played very well. Pitching and defense has been good for most of the season. But we came in here and beat some very good teams this week.''
Boyd got out of a first-inning jam by striking out Anthony Garza with runners on first and third.
Fairview Heights starter Ethan Wild wasn't as fortunate in the bottom of the first.
McPeak singled with one out and went to second on an error. Curtis, a St. Louis University recruit, followed with a line-drive single up the middle, scoring McPeak.
Huelsmann made it 2-0 in the second with his solo home run, but Fairview Heights (17-19) had a chance to tie it in the fourth.
Garza singled with one out and Jake Jarvis was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up a base when Danny Hughes grounded out. But Boyd got Kyle Boewe to retire the side.
"We had a couple of chances, but we just couldn't get the big hit with runners in scoring position,'' Fairview Heights manager Craig Steiner said. "But that's why he (Boyd) was the MVP. He made big pitches when he needed them.
"We finished 17-19, but we lost eight in a stretch. This team had a lot of adversity with injuries and players playing out of position. These kids showed a lot of character and determination.''
Boyd then opened Edwardsville's fourth-inning uprising with an opposite-field home run, making it 3-0. McPeak added his two-run single and Danny Robertson also had an RBI as Edwardsville sent 10 batters to the plate, scoring five times and taking a 7-0 lead.
The lead reached 10-0 before Fairview Heights center fielder Robert Guithues came up with a run-scoring single with two outs in the top of the seventh.
Guithues finished with three hits and a pair of RBIs for Fairview Heights.