Belleville East junior Ryan Culley scattered nine hits in to lead the Lancers to a 5-2 win over Alton on Thursday in a Southwestern Conference game.
The Lancers struck for a pair of runs in the third inning, then used aggressive baserunning in the fifth inning to score twice and take the lead for good en route to their second win in two days.
Culley, who struck out six in 6 1/3 innings, was taken out after reaching the 105-pitch limit with one out in the seventh. Alton (13-7, 2-5) loaded the bases with one out, but reliever Jordan Phillips retired the final two hitters to earn the save.
“It got a little tight there in the seventh, but we had confidence that Jordan (Phillips) could do the job, and he did,” East coach Ryan Wiggs said. “I thought we executed very well tonight. The defense made plays, we were able to get a couple of two out hits, and we played a little ‘small ball’ there by getting the bunt down a couple of times, stealing a few bases and being aggressive with our baserunning.”
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East (9-11, 3-4) scored twice in the third inning off starting and losing pitcher Charlie Erler. Leading off, Austin Hitt reached on a bunt single and advanced to second base when Erler’s throw to first sailed down the right-field line. Evan Lawrence then laced a double into the right-center-field gap to score the first run of the night.
Culley, consistently ahead of the hitters all night, worked out of trouble in the first and had the Redbirds shut out on four hits through the first four innings.
“Pitching with a lead early in the game was important, and then the defense made all of the plays behind me,” Culley said. “I felt like I was getting better as the game went on, and I had real good bite on my curve ball tonight. This was a big win for us moving forward.”
Alton tied the game in the top of the fifth inning on a run-scoring ground out by Steven Pattan and an RBI single by Steve Nguyen.
But the Lancers responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning.