Belleville East junior Drew Millas typically is a see-the-ball, hit-the-ball type of hitter.
On Wednesday, he diverted from his usual course and it paid dividends in Belleville East’s 4-3 victory in nine innings over Collinsville in the semifinals of the Class 4A Granite City Regional.
Millas, a catcher, lined a drive into the left-center gap against Kahoks junior left-hander Parker Marchbanks, scoring junior courtesy runner Jalen Jones from second with the winning run.
“I knew he was going to try to throw some off-speed at me, and I knew he was kind of dirtin’ them before,” said Millas, a switch-hitter was behind in the count 0-2 before working it to 2-2. “I kind of laid off the last two and got a 2-2 count. Then I thought, ‘Here comes a curveball.’ I don’t know why. I just kind of sat on the curveball and got a chance to drive it.”
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Millas had been 0-for-3 with a walk until his hit ended the nearly 3-hour-long contest. The Lancers (17-12), seeded second, will meet top-seeded O’Fallon (26-9) in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Whatever he did, I’m happy he did it,” Lancers coach Todd Blomberg said of Millas. “I just love the way we competed today. We didn’t play the best game; we had some mistakes and didn’t execute some things. But the kids just hung in there and we got great pitching from Brady (Schanuel) and Miles (Brunk) and we finally got a timely hit in the late innings.”
The Lancers tied the game at 3 in the seventh on senior Sheldon Howard’s double against Collinsville senior Justin Anson that plated junior Patrick Gaul.
In the ninth, Brunk singled and was lifted for Jones, who went to second on a balk by Marchbanks. But Marchbanks rallied, striking out Gaul and getting Howard on a short fly to center. Millas then made sure the third-seeded Kahoks (16-16) didn’t wriggle off the hook.
“We did a lot of things well,” Collinsville coach Pete Trapp said. “We scored a couple of runs early on, but unfortunately, we didn’t tack on enough. In the game of baseball, you’ve got to keep finding a way to get another run across, another run across. We scored a couple right away, then we never really answered back.”
The Lancers took a 1-0 lead in the first as Anson walked a pair. Howard slid safely into home on Millas’ grounder to senior first baseman Cody Oberkfell, whose throw to the plate was late.
The Kahoks went tied it in the second on senior Alex Caputo’s double, then took a 3-1 lead in the third on an RBI triple by senior Mitch Reising and a wild pitch by Schanuel.
Senior Nick Martin singled in the fourth and was replaced by junior courtesy runner Travis Michalke, who went to second on Anson’s wild pitch. Senior Logan Powell followed with a single that brought the Lancers within 3-2.
It remained that way until the seventh.
“You’ve got to give (East) a lot of credit. They did everything they needed to do well,” Trapp said. “It (hurts) for us, but that was a great high-school baseball game. It hurts right now. I’m proud to be a Kahok and I’m proud to be the coach of these guys right here because they did what they needed to do. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
Anson allowed three runs (earned) on six hits in seven innings, with four walks and eight strikeouts. Schanuel, who also got no-decision, pitching 7 2/3 innings, permitting three runs (one earned) on six hits, walking two and striking out six.