Big hits, kicks and jumps
Seniors Evan Gray and Gabe Tindall give the Belleville East a top-heavy pitching staff that has kept the Lancers treading .500 all season long.
But over a five-day stretch, the Lancers’ rotation has been literally unhittable.
Tindall blanked the Freeburg Midgets on just three walks in a 1-0 nailbiter at East Friday. It was the Lancers third no-hitter of the week.
Gray blanked Southwestern Conference rival Collinsville in a five-inning, 11-0 short game win Monday. Then Sam McAnulty was perfect in a three-inning, 15-0 win over East St. Louis on Thursday.
But Tindall had to go the distance against the 17-14 Midgets, who put runners on first and second with walks in the fourth inning, but were otherwise blanked by the Belleville East senior.
Tindall credited his catcher, Ryan Gunter, for taking note of what was working and holding him to that strategy the entire afternoon.
“Ryan and I worked really well together and I give him all the credit,” Tindall said. “We tried keeping them off balance with a first-pitch slider, then a high fastball and changeup down and away. Ryan called the right pitches and kept me on location.”
Brant Bowen was nearly Tindall’s equal, allowing the Lancers just three hits while striking out three and walking one.
But East got all the offense it needed in the bottom of the first inning when Gray singled home Zechariah Georgian.
“I really had a feeling in my gut today,” Tindall said. “We played as a true team today and I just had total faith in my defense.”
Gray was warmed up and ready to be the safety net Tindall didn’t need. Both are bound for the University of Arkansas in the fall.
“We had Evan warmed up and ready, but we kept thinking ‘we have to Gabe a chance to finish this,’ and he did,” Wiggs said. “He was locked in.”
It was Tindall’s fourth win of the season and he lowered his ERA to 2.04 in 48 innings.
The Lancers have won five of their last seven games to improve to 18-16. A week’s worth of dominant pitching gives the Lancers a shot of momentum in time for the start of the Alton Class 4A Regional, which begins Wednesday.
“Evan and Gabe have both been pitching so well, but it seems like we’ve struggled to find that third and fourth guy to help us get on a roll,” said Belleville East coach Ryan Wiggs. “You don’t need to be that deep when you get into the postseason, so we think we can do something next week.”
The Alton Regional opens Wednesday with the first semifinal between Edwardsville and Quincy. The Lancers face Alton in the other semifinal Thursday at 4 p.m.