His pants were sliced wide open and covered with dirt Monday, but Collin Holton still managed to clean up a victory for the Swansea/Fairview Heights Giants.
Holton's two-run double down the left-field line broke a tie in the top of the 12th inning and gave the Giants a 3-1 win over Murphysboro in the first round of the American Legion Fifth Division Tournament at New Baden Community Park.
"We've been doing it all year, coming back late," said Holton, a recent O'Fallon High graduate headed for Southwestern Illinois College. "First pitch I let a fastball go down the middle. I was looking hard away and they came in; I just got my hands to it and pulled it down the line."
Giants manager Craig Steiner said he wasn't surprised in the least by Holton's game-winning hit off reliever Cody Wills.
"I expect that out of him, it's not surprising he did it," Steiner said. "I expect him to do something like that. Collin's been our clutch hitter all year, he leads our team in RBIs and he's had the most two-out RBIs all year."
Swansea/Fairview Heights (28-9), the District 22 runner-up, will take on Vandalia at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the second round of the double-elimination tournament.
The Giants might have found themselves in the loser's bracket had it not been for the heroics of leadoff man Domonic Blaylock.
District 25 champ Murphysboro (21-15) carried a 1-0 lead into the top of the ninth inning thanks to eight shutout innings by starter Aiden McMahan. At that point, the Giants --who beat Murphysboro 9-1 earlier this season -- had seven hits but also had stranded 10 runners.
Belleville East right-hander Brady Schanuel, who allowed only one run in his seven innings for Swansea/Fairview Heights, singled leading off the ninth and was bunted to second by Hayden Hewitt.
Blaylock, who reached base safely in all six plate appearances Monday, roped an RBI single to single to tie it.
"He's got such a smooth swing," Steiner said of Blaylock, who played for Belleville East. "He plays really well under pressure. All he does is shorten up and hit the ball -- and that's all we wanted done in that position."
Murphysboro kept its 1-0 lead in the eighth when second baseman Dylan Brasel ranged well into the outfield to haul in a line drive off the bat of Anthony Garza.
Giants left-hander Robert Guithues was strong in relief, allowing just two hits over five scoreless innings to pick up the win.
"He's done a god job all year coming in and closing games down," Steiner said. "He throws a lot of off-speed and keeps the ball down well."
Murphysboro manager Butch Brasel thought about leaving McMahan in to close out the game, but said the right-hander's pitch count was too high.
McMahan struck out eight and seemed to easily work himself out of trouble all day.
"I had him up about 112-115 (pitches) and he's not very happy with me right now," Brasel said. "To be quite honest about it, if I leave him in there I think we probably win the game. But when do you put a player's health in front of maybe winning a baseball game?
"I just thought that it was best for him ... sometimes you've got to protect players from themselves. It was my call and I probably lost us a ballgame. I can live with that, but that's the way it goes."
Carlyle 4, Herrin 1
Turning in his second straight nine-inning complete game in the playoffs, Carlyle right-hander Logan Zachry was razor sharp Monday in a first-round win over Herrin.
The McKendree University recruit allowed only five hits and one unearned run, also pitching around two infield errors. Facing a lineup including three college recruits Zachry had no walks and struck out six, mixing a sharp-breaking curve with a fastball he was able to locate throughout the game.
"I went nine innings and almost had a shutout last time, only gave up one run," said Zachry, a recent Carlyle High graduate who was asked what it takes to be able to go the full nine innings after typically pitching seven during the regular season and in high school. "Save pitches. A lot more fastballs, a lot more in the zone. Can't waste anything, like usual. You've got to push for it."
Carlyle (16-11) will take on the Metro-East Bears at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The District 22 champion Bears received a first-round bye.
Herrin took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when a throwing error by Zachry allowed Gabe Schrimpf to reach safely. Schrimpf moved to third and scored on a wild pitch.
Herrin starter and John A. Logan college recruit Gabe Jelley recorded eight strikeouts in the first three innings and allowed four hits and one run in six innings. He finished with nine strikeouts.
Carlyle (16-11) tied it in the fifth on singles by Zachry and Ethan Huge and a sacrifice fly by Tommy Cummins.
That's the way it stayed until the eighth, when Carlyle pushed across three runs against Herrin reliever Hunter Zeigler.
Cummins ignited the inning with an infield single and a bunt single by Hunter Johnson put runners at first and third. An RBI single by McKendree's Tyson Boehne made it 2-1 and Quincy University recruit Matt Hilmes made it 3-1 when he stole third and scored on a high throw.
Carlyle's Alex Voss closed out the scoring with an RBI single.
Zachry allowed only one hit over the final four innings and held on for the win.