Normally not known for its speed on the basepaths, Belleville East parlayed its newest offensive weapon — and a little help from the Collinsville defense — into a wild Southwestern Conference victory on Thursday at Lancers Stadium.
Jalen Jones scored on a throwing error by Collinsville first baseman Cody Oberkfell with one out in the seventh inning as the Lancers survived a late bullpen meltdown for an 8-7 win.
Collinsville (8-6, 2-3) trailed 7-2 after five innings, but rallied with two runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh off East relief pitchers Cody Freppon and Miles Brunk. The comeback was highlighted by Oberkfell’s one-out, two-run single in the top of the seventh off Brunk, which tied the game at 7.
But the Lancers came right back in the bottom of the inning.
Entering his fourth inning in relief, Collinsville’s Bryce Peek issued a lead-off walk to Jones who then advanced to second base when Kahoks catcher Dylan McEwen’s attempted pickoff throw sailed down the right-field line.
Isaiah King then hit a slow roller to the left side of the infield and was thrown out. Jones, breaking for third base, forced Oberkfell to hurry his throw, which was wild. As the ball rolled away, Jones quickly got to his feet and sprinted home with the winning run.
“Jalen made a good read on the play and got a good break off the base. He forced the first baseman to hurry his throw and the ball got away,’’ Lancers coach Todd Blomberg said. “We’ve got a little more speed than usual. It was a good heads-up play by Jalen.’’
The win is the fourth in a row for the Lancers (9-4, 3-1), who were in command through five innings with a 7-2 lead and Brady Schanuel on the mound. But not wanting Schanuel’s pitch count to get too high, Blomberg pulled his ace in favor of Freppon in the sixth inning.
Collinsville scored twice in the sixth on RBI singles by Cole Young and Mitch Reising to cut the Lancers lead to 7-4. It then scored three runs in the seventh off Brunk.
“Brady threw over 100 pitches in a game last week and his pitch count was getting high again tonight. It’s early in the season and we don’t want to take any chances,’’ Blomberg said. “The plan was to use one pitcher in the sixth inning and one in the seventh. It didn’t work exactly the way we wanted, but it’s a win in the Southwestern Conference.
“I told the kids I was proud of the way we battled. We’ll take it.’’
Collinsville coach Pete Trapp was also pleased at how his team battled back from a five-run deficit to tie the game.
What Trapp wasn’t pleased with was four errors and poor baserunning by the Kahoks. While tying the game with three runs in the seventh, Collinsville also had a runner picked off first base and a runner thrown out at third.
“That was very uncharacteristic of this team tonight. We’re usually a very sound defensive team and we didn’t do a very good job on the basepaths tonight either,’’ Trapp said. “(Starting pitcher) Mathew Cook had trouble throwing strikes tonight and we gave them (East) too many chances to score.
“But Bryce (Peek) came in and did a good job of shutting them (East) down and gave us a chance to get back in the game. I was very pleased at how we fought back tonight.’’
The Lancers scored seven runs in the first three innings all off Cook, who issued five walks and was behind in the count to several other Lancers hitters. Nick Martin drove in the Lancers’ first run with a fielder’s choice and when Cook walked Lancers catcher Drew Millas with the bases loaded, East had a 2-0 lead after an inning.
Schanuel helped his own cause with a two-run single in the second. Millas and Patrick Gaul later had run-scoring singles as part of a three-run third, putting East ahead 7-2.