O’Fallon High senior Bradley Harrison started his pregame warmup for the Edwardsville game about the time he got out of bed Thursday morning.
“School is definitely tough on a day when you play Edwardsville,” said Harrison, who improved to 6-0 by striking out eight and allowing five hits in six innings in a rare 12-2 blowout win over the top-ranked Edwardsville Tigers. “It seems no matter how much you try you can’t get the game off your mind. You’re ready to go when you get up in the morning. It’s real easy to get up for games like Edwardsville. It’s fun.”
The win moved O’Fallon (14-3, 5-1), ranked second in the News-Democrat Large-School Poll and 10th in the PrepBaseballReport.com state rankings, into a first-place tie in the Southwestern Conference standings with Belleville West (12-4, 5-1).
Freshman Josh Gibson had a breakout day at the plate for O’Fallon, going 2-for-2 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Senior Alabama recruit Camden Bauer smacked a pair of doubles and scored three times while Dillon Weiss and Cody Crowder each drove in two runs.
“Josh is very mature for a freshman,” Harrison said of Gibson, hitting .293 with six RBIs. “Even looking back towards me I think he’s a lot more mature than I was and he can handle this type of game. Usually the difference for a freshman is the game is too fast. Gibson is able to slow the game down and play the game at this speed.
“He looks like a junior or senior out there.”
School is definitely tough on a day when you play Edwardsville. It seems no matter how much you try you can’t get the game off your mind. You’re ready to go when you get up in the morning.
O’Fallon senior Bradley Harrison
In a game many felt would be tightly contested, the Panthers were all over the Tigers. Edwardsville (13-4, 4-2) is ranked first in the BND Large-School Poll and sixth in the state.
“I think we’ve been on both ends of the spectrum, but bottom line is their pitcher’s really good and we didn’t play nearly as well as we could,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. “We’ll play better in the future. We’ll keep our head better and do some things on our end. They’ve had a lot of success and we didn’t meet the challenge today.”
The difference for O’Fallon?
“I thought we just came out ready to play,” Harrison said. “All nine players and everybody on the bench, everybody was ready to play today. We looked very good and I think this is the potential that we’ve had all season. We finally tapped into that today.”
Harrison, a Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit, helped himself immensely in the first inning after surrendering a leadoff double to Dylan Burris and watching the Tigers load the bases with one out. Harrison regained his composure and struck out Joel Quirin and Tyler Stamer to end the threat, then allowed only one hit over the next four innings.
“Obviously if you’re chasing a couple runs there in the first inning that’s a difference-maker against a club like Edwardsville,” O’Fallon coach Jason Portz said. “We were fortunate to get out of there, but that’s what Bradley Harrison does. He’s our guy and he’s a guy that we need to step up in those situations.
“That’s what we’ve been looking for out of this team, we haven’t had that this year. It’s nice to see our guys break out a little bit.”
Obviously if you’re chasing a couple runs there in the first inning that’s a difference-maker against a club like Edwardsville. We were fortunate to get out of there, but that’s what Bradley Harrison does. He’s our guy and he’s a guy that we need to step up in those situations.
O’Fallon coach Jason Portz
O’Fallon broke through against Tigers starter Trey Riley for two runs in the third on an RBI single by Brad Snyder and a line shot by Harrison off the third baseman.
Things spiraled out of control in the fourth when O’Fallon scored four more runs following a walk and hit by pitch to start the inning. The big blow was a two-run single by Gibson.
Bauer’s one-out doubles kicked off a three-run fifth and three-run sixth for the Panthers
Tiger pitchers hit four O’Fallon batters, walked six and allowed runs to score on a balk and two wild pitches.
“We gave them some freebies as far as the walks and hit by pitches,” Funkhouser said. “We didn’t do well on some team defensive stuff that we need to obviously practice more.”
The Tigers won nine of their first 10 and are still 13-4. Funkhouser has faith his club will return to form.
“We’re one back on the loss side (in the conference),” he said. “I’m not sure what the other guys have done, but we’re right there. This is one game of 14, so obviously we’ll need to play better than we did today but we’ve done that. We want to be in contention the last week, that what our goal’s been since day one and it didn’t change today.”
Longtime Edwardsville pitching coach Mike Waldo was ejected by the home plate umpire in the fourth inning, apparently for questioning the strike zone.
“I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that,” Funkhouser said. “It was something the umpire dealt with and you move on from there. As a competitor you want to do well and you want your guys to do well. I’d rather not comment on it.”