Pressed into emergency duty, Belleville West pitcher Chad Sauls delivered Tuesday in the Maroons’ key 1-0 victory over the Edwardsville Tigers.
Sauls, a junior right-hander, started on the mound when senior Luke Vallandingham was scratched minutes before the game because of back spasms. Sauls responded with a complete game, allowing five hits, walking two and striking out six.
It was the 11th straight win for the Maroons (16-6, 10-0 SWC), who completed a regular-season sweep of the Tigers (17-4, 7-3) for the first time since 2006.
“Obviously, it’s not good to see one of our two aces go down with an injury,” Sauls said, referring to Vallandingham. “But I had to have his back. He’s had our back all season, so I had to go out there and do what I can.”
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Sauls, who was the designated hitter in the Maroons’ original lineup, said he wasn’t intimidated by the change of plans.
“I’m always ready to come in whenever they need me, and they needed me,” said Sauls (4-1). “Luke was out, so I came in and did what I could.”
Sauls stranded the bases loaded in the first — when he issued both his walks — and left two more on base in the sixth.
In the seventh, Edwardsville got a leadoff double from sophomore Dalton Wallace. A sacrifice bunt by junior Reid Hendrickson advanced Wallace to third. The Maroons tightened their infield, and senior Dylan Burris grounded out sharply to third before senior Andrew Yancik bounced out to short to end the game.
“He did what he wanted to do. We didn’t do much to counteract it,” Tigers coach Tim Funkhouser said of Sauls, who also picked up a win in relief in West’s 4-3 victory over the Tigers on April 6 in Edwardsville.
“He threw his breaking pitch over the plate, he threw it off the plate and on the corner,” Funkhouser said. “We didn’t adjust well at all. We knew that’s what he was going to try to do, and we just didn’t do well with it. That was disappointing.”
Baltz said Vallandingham would have been available if Sauls needed relief. But Sauls maintained control.
“We knew he could be that pitcher; he just hasn’t had a lot of opportunities with Jack and Luke in front of him,” Baltz said. “Circumstances called for it and he answered the call. ... Chad’s kind of a character. Not a whole lot scares him. He’s a little animated out there. He pitched a good game on short notice.”
The Maroons scored the only run of the game in the fourth against Tigers senior right-hander Kade Burns (5-1).
Senior Jack Lanxon tripled to right-center for West’s first hit. The next batter, senior catcher Ty Shylanski, blooped a run-scoring single to center. They were the only two hits West had against Burns, who walked two and struck out five in six innings.
“He was tough,” Maroons coach Todd Baltz said. “He was mixing his pitches up. He was in and out, up and down. He had us off balanced. We didn’t get a lot of good swings on him.”
Burris, Wallace and freshman Drake Westcott each had a double for Edwardsville. The Tigers’ other hits were by seniors Joel Quirin and Will Messer.
Senior Logan Betz reached twice for West, with a hit by pitch and a walk.