After scoring 15 runs in five innings Tuesday against Belleville East, it took the Edwardsville Tigers nine innings to get two runs a couple days later.
And both of them were excruciatingly hard to extract against Belleville West ace Matt Klosterman as the Tigers squeaked out a 2-1 Southwestern Conference baseball victory on Dylan Burris’ two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth.
“I guess baseball’s just like that,” said Edwardsville senior Aaron Jackson, who retired West in order in the ninth to earn a save. “Some days everything can go in your favor. The pitching was really great today, we didn’t have a lot of pitches to hit.
“But I guess some days you’re just eating at a buffet and some days you’ve just got to fight for your food.”
The top-ranked Tigers (25-1 overall, 11-0 in the SWC) had to do a lot of fighting Thursday against a quality right-hander before finally finding some dessert in the ninth inning.
“It was nine innings, Klosterman was out there dealing,” Jackson said. “He’s got to have had one of his best days of the year, I’d imagine. He was really doing a good job of mixing up his pitches.
“We hit a lot of balls hard right at their fielders, but we were able to fight through it and end up with a ‘W’ at the end of the day.”
Edwardsville’s Fahd Shakeel drew a leadoff walk in the ninth and with two outs, Burris stroked a single into left field that scored Shakeel with the game-winner.
“That was a wild game and boy, their pitcher threw well and our guys did, too,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. “Runs were hard to come by.”
Klosterman held the Tigers to only four hits, striking out five and helping strand nine runners aided by his own pitching and some phenomenal defense.
“He was just over 100 pitches. He wasn’t laboring too much, it didnt look like he was struggling,” West coach Todd Baltz said of Klosterman, who mixed in a knuckleball in his second start against Edwardsville this season. “He wanted it and to a certain extent it’s his game to win or lose until it gets too far in. He was done after that (ninth) inning regardless and I give him the benefit of the doubt.
“He’s been our guy, so you definitely want to give him a chance to finish it off.”
The pitching was just as remarkable for the Tigers. Starter Jake Garella allowed five hits and one run in 5 2/3 innings before getting relief help from Chris Robinson and Jackson. Robinson (5-0, 0.34 ERA) entered the game with runners on at second and third in sixth and retired Wyatt Parker on a flyout to center.
Robinson and Jackson combined to retire the final 10 West hitters in order, with Robinson striking out three of the seven hitters he faced.
“He really commands a presence out there and is able to spot his pitches,” Funkhouser said. “He’s piled up a lot of strikeouts this year and a lot of that is him making his pitches and using his stuff.”
Edwardsville broke on top in the third when Mitchell Krebs walked and scored on a sacrifice fly by Collin Clayton. West third baseman Destin Wilson knocked down a sizzling line drive off the bat of Jackson and recovered quickly to get a force play for the third out.
West (10-15, 5-6) tied it in the fourth when Southwestern Illinois College recruit Jacob Wilson reached on a leadoff single and scored on a two-out RBI double by Jack Lanxon.
Parker saved a run with the bases loaded in the sixth when he scooped a low throw from short on one hop for the final out. In the seventh, the Tigers had runners at second and third when West second baseman Spencer Piquard snared a line drive off the bat of Clayton and turned it into a double play.
“It’s great to see our guys continue to push and to handle failure within the game is huge,” Funkhouser said. “Our guys need to continue to work on that, where they get a little wound up and want to do so well that it actually hinders them. It’s kind of a life lesson - and baseball has a lot of that.”
Klosterman and the Maroons’ defense held one of the area’s top offenses to only two runs, but could muster only one themselves.
“There’s no such thing as a moral victory,” Baltz said. “It’s either a win or loss, that’s it, but obviously we take a lot of positives out of it. We played toe-to-toe with obviously the best team in the area. I told our guys today wasn’t the day that we beat a good team, but it’s coming.
“It’s going to happen at the right time, hopefully.”