BELLEVILLE — Struck out by Ballwin starter Brendan Taafee in his previous at-bat and 0-for-3 on Saturday, Belleville Hilgards catcher Ethan Lewis had more than enough motivation for his final plate appearance.
Lewis drilled a two-out RBI double to the gap in left center that scored Austin Keen with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as Belleville edged Ballwin, Mo., 4-3 in pool play at the Southwest Illinois Firecracker Classic.
"I was ready for the game to be done," said Lewis, who got a chance to come through after Keen drew a two-out walk. "(Taafee) was dealing all game; he got me with a curveball the previous at-bat. Right when I hit it, I knew it was a gap shot and I was just hustling it out."
Belleville (26-6) won its second game 4-1 Saturday night over Mattoon to tie the Metro-East Bears for the wild card spot in te semifinals. Belleville advanced by having a better run differential and will face West O'Fallon in the semifinals at 1:15 p.m. Sunday at Longacre Park in Fairview Heights.
Lewis isn't exactly known for his power. He had one double and one triple during the high school season for Belleville West, but came though with a big hit Saturday for the Hilgards' American Legion club.
He was especially proud of the game-winner.
"This is probably my first big one ever," Lewis said. "Usually I'm a small-ball kind of guy, I like to bunt the ball and put it in holes. I just got a big swing on it."
Belleville manager Zach Rakowski said Lewis was the latest example of players stepping up big at different times this season.
"He did a really good job of getting a pitch down in the zone he could handle and put a good swing on it," Rakowski said. "I'm real happy for him. He works really hard and shows up, gives it everything he has all the time. It's nice to see him have success."
Quincy University recruit Brendan Saak (3-1) picked up the win in relief of starter Cory Renois by striking out the side in the top of the seventh.
Saak tossed a strong game later Saturday as Belleville knocked off Mattoon 4-1.
Ballwin (21-4) had tied the game in the top of the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Zach Ruckman after Renois issued three walks to load the bases.
After stranding 10 runners in the first six innings, the Hilgards were able to chase one home at a most opportune time.
Both teams scored single runs in the first and second innings.
Belleville leadoff man Sam Haudrich, who was 2-for-2 and leads the team with a .425 average, singled and came around to score on a wild pitch in the first.
Belleville's Grant Strieker doubled and scored on a Ballwin error in the second.
Ben Mitchell's RBI double scored a run for Ballwin in the first and two Hilgards errors led to another run in the second.
Belleville took a 3-2 lead in the fourth on a two-out RBI single by Southwestern Illinois College first baseman Adam Bauer.
"Adam did what he's done all year, continue to put together good at-bats," Rakowski said of Bauer, who began Saturday hitting .347 in 30 games. "It's never really surprising when he does it because he does it so much for us."
Renois pitched well, limiting Ballwin to four hits while striking out four in six innings.
"Early in the game he just pounded the zone," Rakowski said. "We made some mistakes that we generally don't make that maybe helped lead to a couple of their runs early.
"He did a good job of battling through our mental mistakes and keeping the score somewhere we could stay in the game."
Belleville was hoping to win its second game Saturday against Mattoon to stay alive for a spot in Sunday's semifinals at Longacre Park in Fairview Heights.
The Hilgards' pool was among the toughest in the tourney. They split two games Friday, beating Morgantown, W.Va., 4-2 and losing 4-3 to Texarkana, Ark.
"You saw the records of the teams," Rakowski said. "Texarkanana, Arkansas is one of the powers in the state. Ballwin came in at 20-2 and Mattoon came in at 19-1, those are all programs that you recognize."
Pool winners Bryant (Ark.) and Texarkana play at 11 a.m. Sunday, followed by West O'Fallon (Mo.) vs. Belleville at 1:15 p.m. The winners meet for the championship at 3:30 p.m.
Swansea/Fairview Heights 6, Washington 1
Dominic Blaylock was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Swansea/Fairview Heights broke open a close game with four runs in the sixth inning to beat Washington.
Tyler Scimio tossed a four-hitter in a complete-game performance for Swansea/Fairview Heights, limiting Washington to one run while striking out four.
Kyle Boewe homered in Swansea/Fairview Heights' 8-4 win over Jefferson City, Mo., later Saturday in a game that knocked Jefferson City out of the running for the wild card.