Belleville East senior Evan Lawrence allowed one hit over 6 1/3 innings and broke the game open with a three-run double as the Lancers defeated Althoff 5-0 on Friday at Whitey Herzog Field.
Battling Althoff ace Jack Ysursa in a scoreless pitchers’ duel through five innings, Lawrence cleared the bases with a line drive double into the left-field corner with two outs in the sixth inning. That hit, which came two pitches after Austin Hitt had given East (11-13) the lead with a perfect bunt that scored pinch-runner Dillon Donjon, gave the Lancers a 4-0 lead.
Not allowing a hit through five innings, Lawrence lost his no-hit bid when the Crusaders’ Jack Toenjes led off the sixth inning with a single. The Lancers’ right-hander then worked into the seventh inning, striking out 10. Ryan Culley retired the final two hitters for the Lancers, who broke a three-game losing streak.
“It was a first-pitch fastball,” Lawrence said about his clutch hit. “The coaches are always saying be ready for a first-pitch fastball in that situation. I was able to hit it well,” Lawrence said. “Then the next inning I go out and fall behind the hitter (Toenjes). He hit it well.
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“I was able to get a head of the hitters pretty much all night. I had a good fastball, and my defense did a good job behind me. This is a big win for us. Hopefully we can get on a little streak here going into the playoffs.”
East had scoring chances in each of the first four innings but stranded six men on base, including four in scoring position.
Althoff, which had just one baserunner in the first four innings, stranded runners on first and second in the fifth, setting the stage for the Lancers’ go-ahead rally.
Ysursa got the first two batters in the sixth, then walked catcher Gage Cruz. Donjon, pinch running for Cruz, then went to third base seconds later when Ysursa’s pick-off was wild and rolled down the right-field line.
Shaken by the error, Ysursa then walked the next two hitters to load the bases. Althoff coach Randy Wells then went to the bullpen and brought in Gavin Strieker.
On Strieker’s first pitch, Hitt put down a perfect bunt down the third-base line. Strieker fielded the ball but had no play, as Donjon scored the first run of the game.
“It was just a perfect bunt by Austin,” East coach Ryan Wiggs said. “We talked about if the third baseman was playing back, that a bunt might work there, and it did.
“Evan (Lawrence) pitched a great game for us. He had a good fastball and got ahead of the hitters all night. We didn’t get the big hit early, but the kids kept grinding away. This is a big win. Anytime you can beat a city rival, it’s a big win.”
Althoff falls to 6-12 for the season.