When Patrick Gaul steps to the plate for the Belleville East Lancers, the senior knows exactly what he is supposed to do.
Gaul went 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of RBIs on Saturday morning, helping the Lancers to a 4-3 win over the Highland Bulldogs at East High School.
The Lancers’ leadoff hitter, Gaul got East going in the bottom of the first, lacing a pitch from Highland starting pitcher Connor Pinkser into the gap in left-center field for a double.
A sacrifice bunt by Trevor Sanchez moved Gaul to second and when Drew Millas followed with a fly ball to right, he scored to give the Lancers a lead they would not relinquish.
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“My job is to just go up there be aggressive,” said Gaul, who has signed to play baseball at Lindenwood University-Belleville. “Coach says my job is to get on base any way I can, so my teammates can drive me in.”
Gaul came into the contest with a .435 batting average and 13 RBIs, to go along with team-highs in runs scored (24). and stolen bases (18)
“Patrick always seems to be the key to our offense,” said first-year Lancers coach Ryan Wiggs. “He just gets on base and makes things happen, all of the time.
“That’s something you can’t replace and when Patrick Gaul gets going, it’s tough to stop our offense.”
East (16-7) would eventually extend its lead to 4-0 – Gaul driving in two of the runs on a fielder’s choice in the second inning and a single in the fourth — before Highland mounted a comeback with three runs in the fifth.
The Bulldogs (8-10) did load the bases with just one out in the sixth, but East got out of the jam, before going onto post its sixth consecutive win. That win streak would grow to seven, following a 6-0 victory over Carbondale in the Lancers’ second game of the day.
“I think those losses kind of got us motived, got us clicking,” said Gaul, of an East team that lost to Southwestern Conference powerhouses Edwardsville and O’Fallon in a three-game stretch earlier this month before starting its win streak. “We know we’ve got a good team, it’s just up to us to go out there and play to our potential.”
After its three-run fifth inning, Highland stirred up even more trouble in the top of the sixth, when East relief pitcher Alex Phillips sandwiched walks to Jordon Smith and Chris Dickman around a ground out to open the inning
Relieved by Michael Lassman, Highland’s Seth Luitjohan, was unable to get down a suicide squeeze and East catcher Drew Millas alertly tagged Mike McGill as he ran in from third.
Lassman then hit Luitjohan, again loading the bases. But he got leadoff hitter Will Greenwald to ground out to second ending the threat.
“It was a little squeeze we were trying to run through there and he just punched through it,” said Hawkins, whose team rebounded from the loss to East — its fifth in six games — to 4-1 defeat Carbondale in the second game. “We’re just not punching the right buttons with these kids at the moment.
“But they showed some good fight and I am proud of that.”
After Gaul doubled and scored in the first, East got consecutive singles from the bottom four in its batting order while scoring twice in the second inning.
In the fourth, Gaul’s second hit of the game scored Kyle Rensing, who had reached on an error and stole second, making it 4-0.
Highland posted all of its runs in the fifth inning, when it loaded the bases with no out against Lancers starting pitcher Ben Cruikshank.
A bases-loaded walk to Brock Troxell scored Highland’s first run.
A wild pitch thrown by Phillips brought home the inning’s second run. The third came on a fielder’s choice, before Phillips struck out Sam Greene to end the inning.
The Lancers did all of their damage in the opening two innings – scoring three runs in each – en route to a 6-0 win over Carbondale in their second game Saturday.
Starting pitcher Evan Lawrence went six innings, scattering four hits while striking out six and walking one. Rensing the game on the mound with a scoreless seventh.