Prep Baseball & Softball

Lancers ace battles burst blister in win over Tigers

With Belleville East holding a 4-0 lead Thursday at Tom Pile Field, Lancers ace Ryan Culley felt a blister on his left big toe break open as he warmed up to start the bottom of the third inning.

Three innings later, Culley was still on the mound.

Overcoming a season-high eight walks, Culley pitched five innings and the Lancers' offense collected 14 hits, as Belleville East went on for an 8-1 win in a Southwestern Conference baseball game.

Junior Zechariah Georgian went 4 for 4 at the plate and was one of three Lancers to drive in a run during a four-run outburst in the top of the third inning off Edwardsville starter Chase Gockel, who took the loss.

But after striking out four of the first six hitters in the first two innings, Culley, with the pain in his left foot hindering his ability to push off the mound on his delivery, walked the first five hitters he faced to start the inning.

"I felt it (the blister) break open, and because it was hurting when I was pushing off, it threw me off a little bit," Culley said. "I was able to get through it, and the defense made plays behind me. The offense was really good tonight as well."

Although his delivery to the plate was off, Culley's pickoff move to first base couldn't have been better. After walking Josh Ohl and Ben Basarich to start the iinning he picked both runners off first base for the first two outs of the inning.

Culley then walked the next three Tigers to load the bases, but he got Reid Hendrickson to pop out to end the inning.

"With the blister, Ryan couldn't push off and was having a difficult time throwing strikes," Lancers coach Ryan Wiggs said. "But he didn't want to come out. One of the times I went out to the mound, I asked him how he felt. He looked at me and said, 'Coach, I got this.'

"He's one of our seniors and a real leader. He gave a great effort tonight."

The win lifts Belleville East to 8-5 overall and 3-1 in the SWC. It also breaks a two-game losing streak and gets the Lancers back on track after a 13-3 loss at undefeated O'Fallon on Tuesday.

"We got short-gamed in six innings against O'Fallon, and so to be able to come back with this kind effort against Edwardsville, it's a very big win for us," Wiggs said. "Offensively, we hit the ball hard all day and were able to score some runs."

The Lancers increased the lead to 6-0 in the fifth inning before Edwardsville scored its only run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Jack Cooper. The earned run was the first given up by Culley all season, a streak that extended over 21 innings.

The run would prove to be the only positive note of the night for Edwardsville (10-3, 4-1). The Tigers had their chances. East pitchers Culley, Sam McAnulty and Austin Hitt combined to issue 11 walks.

"If somebody would have told me before the game that we would walk 11 times and score just one run ... with the wind blowing out, I wouldn't nave believed them," Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser said. "We didn't do a very good job of showing patience at the plate a couple of times, and it cost us tonight."

Ben Cruikshank added his second hit and second RBI of the night as part of a two-run sixth inning for East. Culley worked the first five innings before getting relief help from McAnulty and Hitt in the final two innings.