The window of opportunity closed quickly for the Belleville East Lancers on Monday at the Class 4A Granite City Regional championship game.
Nailing that window shut was O’Fallon junior Bradley Harrison, who tossed a five-inning no-hitter in the Panthers’ 10-0 victory and also drove in five of the 10 runs himself.
After being piled on by his teammates behind the mound following his second no-hitter this season, Harrison seemed strangely calm and collected as he broke down his performance. It included six strikeouts on the mound and a 3-for-3 effort at the plate with two doubles and five RBIs.
“I’m told that I have a very cool energy, very relaxed,” Harrison said while teammates tried to get his attention during an interview. “It was a great feeling, I’ve never been dog-piled before.”
It’s a feeling the Panthers (28-9) could get used to, but they have a tough opponent in their way in the Edwardsville Tigers (33-1). The teams meet Wednesday in a sectional semifinal game at a still to be determined metro-east location.
Edwardsville won both previous meetings against Southwestern Conference rival O’Fallon, 2-1 in 11 innings and 8-5.
“It’s definitely huge,” Harrison said of O’Fallon’s first regional title since 2012. “I haven’t experienced a regional championship since I’ve been in high school, so it’s definitely a good feeling. We’re looking forward to Wednesday and we’re just ready to go.”
Harrison, who also pitched Saturday when O’Fallon built a 6-0 lead in a game suspended because of rain, struggled a bit with his control to start the fourth inning Monday. Belleville East (18-13) loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a hit batter, then Isaiah King fouled off several tough pitches before hitting into a force play at the plate on a ball back to the mound.
The Lancers still had a chance to put something on the scoreboard, but O’Fallon first baseman Bradley Snyder got himself in front of a tough one-hopper with plenty of spin. Snyder picked up the ball, then dived back to the first base bag to make the out just ahead of East’s Mitch Harlan.
“I really like the way we came out,” Belleville East coach Todd Blomberg said. “Harrison was struggling a little bit, then we get bases loaded and they make a real nice backhand play to the plate. The play the first baseman made was excellent and took us out of the inning.
“We were on the verge of getting a couple runs and making it a different game, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 even. Who knows what can happen then? They made a couple nice plays to get out of the inning and us not being able to score right there definitely changed the game for us.”
O’Fallon coach Jason Portz credited Snyder for deflating the East rally and momentum.
“Snyder’s play is really, really big — and Bradley Snyder is the type of kid that plays hard all the time,” Portz said. “That kid walks off the field and he’s wringing wet and he’s filthy dirty. There he is again, bodies up a ball to save a run on a funny spin and then dives to get the out.”
O’Fallon tacked on four more runs in the fourth to put things away, with Harrison again finding his way into the mix along with a two-run single by Jackson Penrod.
“Certainly our kids didn’t quit, but I want to give O’Fallon a lot of credit,” Blomberg said. “They came out and hit the ball today. It’s not like we gave them those runs. Now, Saturday was a little different story, but today they came out and swung the bats and got the 10-run lead.”
Game at a Glance
O’Fallon junior left-hander Bradley Harrison tossed a five-inning no-hitter and drove in five runs as the Panthers blasted Belleville East 10-0 Monday to win the Class 4A Granite City Regional. It was O’Fallon’s first regional title since 2012.
The teams resumed play in the third inning Monday after playing 3 2/3 innings Saturday before the game was suspended because of rain. O’Fallon (28-9) advances to the sectional semifinals and will face either Edwardsville or Alton on Wednesday at a neutral site in the metro-east.
O’FALLON 1st: Harrison’s RBI double gave O’Fallon a 1-0 lead and a Belleville East error led to two more runs. O’Fallon 3, Belleville East 0.
O’FALLON 2nd: With two outs, Dillon Weiss singled and Nick Crabtree reached on an error. Bradley Snyder walked to load the bases and Harrison hit a three-run double to right-center. O’Fallon 6, Belleville East 0.
O’FALLON 4th: Weiss and Snyder each reached safely before Harrison hit an RBI single. A single by Chris Holba loaded the bases for Jackson Penrod, who lined a two-run single to center. O’Fallon 10, Belleville East 0.