BELLEVILLE — Four batters into the bottom of the first inning Tuesday, the Belleville East Lancers had already set the tone for a successful afternoon of baseball.
The Lancers jumped on Belleville West ace Parker Beine for three runs in the first and added three more in second on the way to an 8-3 Southwestern Conference victory over their city rivals.
"I didn't think Parker came out with his best stuff, but I think we really made him pay for mistakes," Belleville East coach Todd Blomberg said after his 6-8 club improved to 3-3 in league play. "We were very aggressive and you can tell when he settled in we had a little more trouble. We were able to put hits together and run the bases well.
"We got some runs early and that's a big relief, to play a little more relaxed."
Parker Hendricks ripped an RBI double to left to kick off the early scoring. Kevin Horner began his 4-for-4, three-RBI day with an RBI single and Drew Millas crushed an RBI triple to right field.
Run-scoring hits by Hendricks, Horner and Brady Schanuel chased home three more runs in the second.
That proved to be more than enough offense to bolster the pitching of Schanuel (2-4), who had been something of a hard-luck competitor this season.
Schanuel allowed eight hits and held the Maroons (9-7, 3-3) quiet until a pair of Belleville East errors and Jacob Wilson's RBI double led to three West runs in the fifth.
Schanuel struck out five and walked one. He also had two RBI singles.
"People might look at that (record) and might not know some of the circumstances, but our defense has not helped him very much," Blomberg said of Schanuel. "He could easily be 4-1 or 3-2 if we make some plays. He really pitched a really nice game."
Horner, a junior shortstop, pushed his team-leading average to .442 and also leads the Lancers with 10 RBIs.
"I'm just seeing the ball well and putting a good swing on it like I practice," he said. "My old coach used to say that hitting is contagious --and definitely today it was for us."
Blomberg likes Horner's aggressive approach at the plate.
"He's been producing very well for us all season," Blomberg said. "I'm very confident in him ... he sees the ball real well and has a really good approach. Today against a really good pitcher, it was nice for him to come through for us."
West coach Lee Meyer said Beine, a Jefferson College recruit who entered the game with a 4-1 record and 1.75 ERA, settled down after a rough beginning.
"I've got a lot of faith in Parker, as you can tell," Meyer said. "I leave him out there with six runs because I think he can shut them down and we can come back and score. The problem was we didn't start scoring until a little bit later in the game and then it's a little bit harder on the pitcher."
Meyer wants to see more offensive production from his team. The Maroons have been shut out twice and held to two runs or fewer seven times in 16 games.
"You've just got to be hungry to get those RBIs and right now we have to get some guys hungry," Meyer said. "I like the way we fought back, but the two (runs) in the sixth killed us.
"We're having better at-bats and we're playing much better defensively. Were trying to get our guys a little more aggressive at the plate and once our guys start believing that and doing that, we're gong to have even more success."