Putting unfamiliar wooden bats in the hands of the Edwardsville Tigers and matching them against two recent state champs from Tennessee and Arkansas did nothing to slow them down over the weekend.
The Tigers improved to 15-0 by outscoring Jonesboro, Ark. (13-0), Collierville, Tenn. (13-0) and East Carter, Ky. (16-1) by a combined 42-1 Friday and Saturday at the Dinger Wood Bat Classic tournament in Mayfield, Ky.
It was the third year for the tourney, which featured 17 teams from five states.
“We played extremely well, the wood bats didn’t seem to affect our guys,” Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. “We had six or seven extra-base hits the first game. I hadn’t sene our guys as focused, playing the game pitch-by-pitch, for an entire weekend like that.”
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On top of the offensive exploits, Tigers pitcher Tyler Hosto tossed a five-inning perfect game in the final game Saturday, a 13-0 victory over Jonesboro, Ark.
Making his first ever varsity start, Hosto struck out five and got plenty of help from the Tigers’ offense and defense in the one-side win.
Edwardville’s Jake Garella fired a two-hit shutout to beat Collierville, which won a Tennessee state title in 2013.
In the first game Saturday, Tigers’ junior Trey Riley allowed only one hit against East Carter, a team from Elsinore, Mo.
“Guys like Jake Garella and Trey Riley stepping up have been big,” Funkhouser said. “Trey Riley has electric stuff and he continues to hone in on getting command of his pitches. I’ve seen a lot of improvement from both of those guys.”
Edwardsville pitching has been dominant with three shutouts in the last four games and five overall in 15 games.
The Tigers have limited the opposition to one run or fewer 11 times in 15 games led by Daniel Lloyd (3-0, 0.00 ERA), Aaron Jackson (3-0, 0.00 ERA), Riley (3-0, 3.23 ERA), Garella (1-0, two saves, 0.53 ERA) and Chris Robinson (2-0, 2.28 ERA).
“Each time they’re trying to go out there and do well, but they’re also competing for innings,” Funkhouser said. “Its kind of the same thing for a lot of our hitters and position players. It’s a team-first mentality and everybody wants to help out the team.”
Batman plays for Columbia
The top hitter in the entire St. Louis area is Columbia Eagles junior outfielder Cameron Touchette, who was crushing pitchers for a stratospheric .732 average (30-for-41) with two homers and 14 RBIs through 13 games.
Touchette was 12-for-15 (.800) last week with four doubles, a triple and eight RBIs.
That includes a 4-for-4 outing against Althoff in a nonconference game on Friday. Touchette’s day against the Crusaders included three doubles, a triple and five RBIs in a 12-0 win.
MVC teams flexing their strength
Highland has won 13 of 14 games, with the only defeat coming at the hands of Mississippi Valley Conference rival Mascoutah.
In the annual jostling for position at the top of the MVC standings, it’s still far too early to see a clear favorite. Waterloo and Jerseyville also have strong teams and expect to challenge.
“It’s amazing how much baseball teams change,” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said. “It’s late April and by mid-May you could have two different teams.”
Dominant pitching has been Mascoutah’s trump card. The Indians had an incredible nine shutouts in their first 16 games, holding opponents to one run or fewer 11 times.
Senior Daniel Milas (3-3, 1.30 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 27 innigs) has been imposing along with Connor Waltsgott (4-0, 2.33 ERA), Noah Kraljev (2-2, 2.18 ERA) and Noah Dressler (1-0, three saves, 0.54 ERA).
“Our pitching’s been phenomenal and our defense has been pretty good, too,” Mascoutah coach Don Eddy said.
Despite the loss of top pitchers Ryan Netemeyer and Alex Oltmann to graduation after combining for a 13-1 record last spring, the Indians’ pitchers continue to sparkle.
“We’ve got three kids that saw quite a few innings last year,” Eddy said. “They got a lot of time over the summer, too. We knew that was going to be our strength.”
In a 3-2 victory Friday over Southwestern Conference power O’Fallon, Highland squeaked out a 3-2 win in the bottom of the seventh when Seth Luitjohan stole second base on a close play and scored on an RBI single by senior shortstop Cody Bentlage.
Highland pitcher Tyler Kimmle (5 1/3 innings, three hits two runs) and reliever Jordan Smith combined on the win.
“They had a long week, they played that 11-inning game against Edwardsville and had a 12-9 game with Belleville West the night before,” Hawkins said of O’Fallon. “That was probably a good time to catch them because they’re a really good group.
“It helps a lot knowing you can compete with that kind of a team. We’re very aware that they had used every arm in the program (earlier in the week), so I understood that. It’s still O’Fallon, period. That’s a great program and when you beat somebody like that it does give you a boost.”
Grant Geppert continues to pile up damage whether he’s at the plate or on the mound. Geppert (.471, 13 RBIs) and Bentlage (.333, 12 RBIs) have been Highlands top run producers while Geppert is also 5-0 as a pitcher with a 0.56 ERA.
Seniors Jeff Hightower (.432, 15 RBIs) and Wyatt Elbe (.388, 10 doubles, three homers, 18 RBIs) have become solid contributors in the Mascoutah lineup.
“We’re hoping as we get to the second half that we’ll start to produce more runs, but even in the games we’ve lost our pitching has kept us in it,” said Eddy, whose team edged Freeburg and Belleville West by the same 1-0 score last week. “Not very often do you win two 1-0 games in a week.”