One inning made all the difference Monday for the Edwardsville Tigers.
After falling behind 3-2 in the fourth, the Tigers scored eight runs and sent 13 men to the plate in the fifth as they pounded Sandburg 11-3 in the Class 4A Champaign Super-Sectional.
Edwardsville (33-7) will face St. Laurence (35-5) at 5 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the state tournament at Slammers Stadium in Joliet. It’s the Tigers’ first berth in the state tournament since 2007, when it lost to Neuqua Valley 7-3 in the Class 2A quarterfinals.
“This is huge. It’s really fun,” said Drake Westcott, Edwardsville freshman first baseman and Louisville recruit. “Now we’ve just got to keep rolling and keep playing good.”
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Westcott had two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored in addition to being intentionally walked twice.
Tigers coach Tim Funkhouser liked his team’s chances even before its breakout inning against three pitchers, including junior and Notre Dame recruit Evan Tenuta.
“You could see with our preparation that we had a good chance,” Funkhouser said. “But you’ve got to go out there and lay it on the line. I’m proud of our guys. I attribute (the big inning) to the way our guys practice every day and grind out at-bats.”
Edwardsville grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on Westcott’s double, an error and senior Joel Quirin’s infield out. It became 2-0 in the third on Quirin’s RBI single.
Sandburg evened it up with two runs in the third against senior Kade Burns (10-1), then took its first lead at 3-2 in the fourth on a two-out RBI double by junior Ryan Hampe.
The Tigers, however, saved a run in the inning when they executed a strong relay play that gunned out Sandburg junior Andrew Tenison at the plate to end the threat.
Now, we’ve just got to keep rolling and keep playing good.
Drake Westcott, Edwardsville freshman first baseman and Louisville recruit
“In that situation, we’re gambling, hoping it’s an errant throw or something and we get up by two,” said Sandburg coach Jim Morsovillo, a teammate of Funkhouser’s at Western Illinois University. “We did get the lead; that was good. But once you get that lead, especially in a game like this, if you stop them next inning, you have the momentum.”
Moments later, however, Edwardsville had wiped out the lead and seized the initiative, capitalizing on some shaky defense by the Eagles in extremely windy conditions.
The Tigers scored one run on senior Andrew Yancik’s wind-blown popup to shallow left field. Another run scored when Sandburg junior shortstop Branden Comia, an Illinois recruit, couldn’t handle a popup in short left.
“We made a couple of defensive miscues. It was a tough wind, but we’ve got to make those plays,” Morsovillo said. “It was one of those never-ending innings. It seemed like everywhere they hit it, we didn’t field the ball properly or well. It’s part of the game. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
With the exception of the third when he walked two and hit two, Burns was in control. The right-hander finished with a complete-game five-hitter, with three walks and five strikeouts. Only one of the Sandburg runs against Burns was earned.
“That seems to be what’s happening. I’ll have a little rough patch, then settle in and it’s all money from there,” Burns said. “That’s what I like to do. I like to go out and dominate, but if I don’t have my best stuff, I have to rely on defensive plays. We made a lot of defensive plays today that were outstanding.”
The best came in the seventh when senior right fielder Dan Picchiotti raced into foul territory, battling the wind all the way, and made a sliding catch to retire Tenison.
Edwardsville finished with 11 hits. Westcott, Yancik, senior Dylan Burris, senior Will Messer and junior Will Hampton had two apiece. Burris and Yancik each had a triple.
“Big at-bats (from) guys throughout the order, that’s tough to face,” Funkhouser said. “Pitchers aren’t used to doing that. It was just a fun game to watch our guys compete.”