Metro East Bears take charge early to beat Highland, advance to final

The Metro East Bears erupted for five runs in the first inning and never looked back en route an 8-3 victory over Highland in the Fifth Division Tournament on Wednesday at Glik Park.

With their third straight win of the tournament, the Bears (35-7) get a day off Thursday and advance to Friday’s championship round.

With the loss, Highland (16-12) will play Aviston at 7 p.m. Thursday. The team that survives to Friday’s final round must beat the Bears twice in order to advance to the American Legion State Tournament from July 26-29 in Mattoon.

Spearheading the offensive attack for Metro East were Corey Price and Blake Vandiver with two hits apiece. Price also logged a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored, while Vandiver also reached base all four times and scored twice.

For Highland, Will Greenwald went 2 for 4 with a double and one run scored.

The Bears sent 10 hitters to the plate in the bottom of the first and got an RBI double from Joel Quirin, a two-run triple from Price and a two-run single from Cole Hansel.

Metro East knocked out Highland starter Jake Ramsey after he only recorded one out in the first inning, but not before he was charged with all five runs in the frame.

The Bears built their lead to 8-0 after tacking on a single run in each of the second, third and fifth innings.

In the second, Price slapped a run-scoring single to center field to score Blake Vandiver, who had singled.

In the third, Tate Wargo drew a leadoff walk and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Dylan Burris.

The Bears scratched across their final run in the fifth on Burris’ RBI single to right to plate Wargo, who had again walked.

Bears pitcher Andrew Frank picked up the win after coming within one out of going the distance. He blanked Highland for the first six innings and only allowed a total of four hits while punching out eight. But Frank ran into trouble in the seventh and was charged with three runs, two of them earned.

Highland also did not do itself any favors early on, as it lost two runners on base in each of the second and third innings.

Highland finally broke through in the seventh, but it was not near enough to dig out of the eight-run hole.

Aviston 7, Newton 5

Aviston scored in each of the first four innings to build a 7-2 lead, then held on for the 7-5 victory to survive for at least another day and eliminate Newton.

Jack Strieker, Brent Timmons, Nolan Robben, Bryce Beckmann and Carter Truong collected two hits apiece. Strieker, Timmons and Robben each had two RBIs.

Truong also earned the win on the mound. He allowed three runs (two earned), five hits and three walks, while striking out six.