Before Tuesday, Edwardsville second baseman Mitchell Krebs wasn’t exactly auditioning for the cleanup spot in the Tigers’ order with one double and a .268 average through 24 games.
Krebs flashed a different side to his game in a 15-2, five-inning Southwestern Conference baseball win over Belleville East, collecting a pair of doubles and six RBIs from the No. 9 spot in the lineup.
Not bad for a guy hitting .268 before Tuesday with nine RBIs, since he nearly reached that total in three plate appearances. All three came with the bases loaded as he had a bases-loaded walk to force in a run in the second, a three-run double to the gap in the third and a two-run double in the fourth.
“I think it’s just good to see Mitchell break out,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said after his top-ranked 24-1 Tigers improved to 10-0 in conference play. “He’s getting better swings over the last couple weeks, had a big hit for us to win a game against O’Fallon and put some other good swings on (balls). He’s really starting to settle in more and it was good to see him do that today.
“He had some power, too, he almost got his first career home run there.”
Maybe it’s his lucky walk-up song played over the sound system before each of his home at-bats, the quirky throwback hit “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. How does a modern-day player come up with a walk-up song that was a hit back in 1969?
“I was going through my mom’s iTunes songlist and that one just clicked,” Krebs said. “Me and a few other guys are into some oldies on the team. My mom (Gina) loves it. I had a throwback last year too, so I had to carry on the tradition.”
Edwardsville’s Jordan Hovey added a three-run homer in the fourth, Aaron Jackson was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Jake Garella was 3-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Tigers’ prolific day at the plate — which featured six doubles and a home run among 16 hits — began against Belleville East ace Brady Schanuel. Schanuel was 5-2 with a 1.18 ERA before Tuesday, but left after allowing three runs in the first two innings.
Schanuel and relievers Alex Phillips and Aidan Cole had trouble with Edwardsville’s lineup all day, but that’s something opposing pitchers have had difficulty with all season.
“I thought our pitching was terrible to be quite honest, all of them,” said East coach Todd Blomberg, whose team lost 6-5 to Edwardsville in the previous meeting. “I thought Brady was bad, I thought Phillips was bad and I thought Aidan was bad. You can’t let the bottom of the order do what they did to us. We missed our location and we walked too many guys.”
On the bright side, the Lancers got a fifth-inning home run from Izaiah Hitt and should have no trouble putting the memory of the one-sided loss behind them.
“We haven’t been blown out too many times in my career, but today was one of them,” Blomberg said. “You just kind of flush it and move on, come out tomorrow and try to get better.
“In this case it’s a real good thing, because we don’t want this dragging out tomorrow. We want today to be over with, come out tomorrow and have a good practice.”
Edwardsville ace Daniel Lloyd (5-0) allowed one run on three hits and struck out five in four innings.
An RBI double by Fahd Shakeel and Krebs’ bases-loaded walk helped stake Edwardsville to a 3-0 lead in the second. East got a run back in the third on a double by Drew Millas and Schanuel’s RBI single, but the Tigers came right back with four in the third with Krebs’ bases-clearing double doing much of the damage.
“I saw the ball well today,” Krebs said. “I was just trying to let the ball get deep because I’ve been struggling. I’d been getting out in front of balls lately ... he threw me a few pitches I could handle and I put a few good swings on them.”
The Tigers took all the air out of the park with an eight-run fourth inning that included Hovey’s three-ruin blast and a two-run double by Krebs.
“We do have a lot of guys up and down the order that take good at-bats and have good pop,” Funkhouser said. “You can tell our guys have been lifting and working hard and put some good swings on some pitches. With the warm weather, it’s kind of been hitter friendly too.
“That was fun to watch.”