Noah Kraljev picked a fine time for his only strikeout.
Kraljev, a senior right-hander, slipped a called third strike past junior Wyatt Parker with the bases loaded in the sixth inning Monday, and the Mascoutah Indians held on for a 1-0 victory over Belleville West in a nonconference baseball game.
Kraljev allowed no runs on four hits in six innings, walked three and recorded 10 ground-ball outs. Senior Wyatt Elbe drove in the Indians’ only run with a fourth-inning double and junior Noah Dressler recorded the save with a one-two-three seventh.
“I was just trying to pitch to contact and let them hit it,” Kraljev (1-2) said of his performance. “I wanted to let my defense do the work, which is what they did the whole game. They helped me out a lot. I don’t really pitch for strikeouts a whole lot; I just pitch to contact when I pitch.”
West senior Jacob Wilson started the sixth-inning threat when he reached on an infield single between first and second with one out. Senior Luke Glaeser flied out to center, but senior Matt Klosterman walked and sophomore Jack Lanxon singled sharply to right to load the bases.
Kraljev fell behind Parker 3-0, but rallied back for the key strikeout.
“I was just relaxed. I knew I couldn’t walk him or else they would have tied it,” Kraljev said.
Mascoutah, which had just four hits against West senior right-hander Jacob Eccher, improved to 6-4. The Maroons fell to 4-8.
“It was a terrible day to hit,” Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said, referring to a strong wind blowing in from center field.
But the Indians turned around the wind for their only run in the deciding fourth. After Kraljev and senior Chase Barnes each grounded out to short on the first two pitches of the inning from Eccher, Eddy summoned senior Jeff Hightower for a conference.
Instead of taking a pitch or two, however, Hightower doubled to left-center on Eccher’s first offering, and Elbe’s double to deep right drove in junior courtesy runner Dominic Johnson.
“Jeff’s got a lot of pop in his bat and the kid (Eccher) was throwing all fastballs,” Eddy said. “I was just trying to change the pace of the game. So I went to talk to him and he actually asked me if he needed to take, and I told him he did not need to take. He pumped him a fastball and Jeff roped it in the gap. ... Then Wyatt was able to drive a ball and that was the loan run we needed.”
West coach Todd Baltz bemoaned the missed opportunity in the sixth.
“He battled back,” Baltz said of Kraljev. “That’s been the year. We get a lot of guys on and we can’t get the hit when we need it. It seems like that’s been the story in a lot of our losses.
“Tip your hat to them. They ran into two balls when they needed them. Jacob pitched a heck of a game. Besides those two hits, he was everything we needed him to be today.”
Eccher (0-4) went the distance, yielding one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out three. West has scored just one run in Eccher’s last three starts.
“(The fourth) had the makings of a three-pitch inning,” Baltz said. “But (Hightower) turned one around and the next hitter did the same thing.”
Eccher, like Kraljev, had 10 ground-ball outs.