EDWARDSVILLE — Facing the top two baseball teams in the Southwestern Conference this week, Belleville East was in good position to deliver wins against O'Fallon and Edwardsville.
But they lost a 4-3 heartbreaker Tuesday to top-ranked O'Fallon and followed that up with another 4-3 loss Thursday to second-ranked Edwardsville as the Tigers came from behind to win.
Edwardsville reliever Daniel Lloyd (2-0) allowed one hit in four scoreless innings, striking out three while waiting patiently for his teammates to erase a 3-1 deficit.
"I'm pleased that we're competing and I'm pleased that we're fighting and scrapping," said East coach Todd Blomberg, whose 3-5 team is 1-2 in the SWC. "In the last two games against O'Fallon and Edwardsville we had chances to win and it just didn't work out our way. One time a guy made a great catch and the other time some of our own mistakes cost us.
"I like the competitive nature of our team. I wish we had more wins for sure, but I do like how we fight and how we scrap."
What Blomberg had trouble with Thursday was a Lancer defense that made four errors, each one aiding or contributing to Edwardsville runs.
Taking advantage of opponents' mistakes is nothing new for the Tigers (10-1), now 3-0 in the conference.
Leadoff errors in the fourth and fifth led to runs, as did back-to-back bunts in the fifth by Fahd Shakeel and Matthew Zielonko.
Down 3-2, the Tigers got a break when East pitcher Brady Schanuel (1-2) threw high to first on Shakeel's bunt. Zielonko dropped down a bunt single before the Tigers scored the tying run on another infield error.
After a double steal left runners at second and third, Blomberg ordered an intentional walk to hard-hitting Edwardsville catcher Brock Weimer to load the bases.
Aaron Jackson followed with a sacrifice fly to left as East catcher Drew Millas was unable to handle the bouncing throw from Domonic Blaylock.
"When you give up two runs and they hit one ball out of the infield, that's tough to overcome in a tight game," Blomberg said. "They bunted the ball a couple times and we couldn't field it and throw it. The one ball hit in the outfield we actually make an out and probably should have doubled the guy up at the plate.
"Defensively, we let Brady down quite a bit for sure. I felt like we should have won the game."
Schanuel pitched well, limiting Edwardsville to five hits while striking out four.
"He pitched definitely well enough to win and he gave us some fits," Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. "We've been a pretty solid hitting team and he was able to strike us out looking a couple different times. We didn't get a lot of good hacks off of him."
Funkhouser appreciated his team's ability to execute at the right times.
"We were able to get a couple bunts down," he said. "They weren't great bunts, a couple back to the pitcher ... we kind of took advantage of that and some other plays that they didn't make. They took advantage of ours in the outfield."
East got all three of its runs in the third inning against Edwardsville starter Chris Robinson.
A two-out RBI single by Blaylock got things going, then Parker Hendricks' fly ball to right was misjudged by Austin Werner.
Sheldon Howard scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-1 for the Lancers.
Lloyd's relief work help set the stage for a win as he relied heavily on a diet of breaking balls.
"Lloyd came in and shut it down," Funkhouser said. "He has good poise on the mound, too. He wants to be out there and that's good. He wants to be out there with the game on the line."
Blomberg also commended Schanuel's pitching.
"He pitched fantastic," Blomberg said. "If we just make routine plays it's a different game. We're fighting, we're scrapping and we've got a lot of heart, but eventually we've got to settle in and start winning some games."
That's something Edwardsville has done for decades. And while the Tigers had to replace numerous starters, they're winning again.
"If people say they don't expect that, I think they're lying," Blomberg said. "Everybody know that they're always going to be competing for the top of the conference and they're always going to have a good record."