On Senior Night for the Belleville East baseball team Friday, the presence of two Belleville East graduates coaching for Althoff against their alma mater made little difference to the Lancers.
Junior left-hander Cody Freppon scattered five hits and struck out nine in six scoreless innings and Belleville East rocked Althoff 9-0 with seniors Izaiah Hill and Drew Millas combining for seven hits and seven RBIs.
Hitt was 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Millas, a catcher headed to Missouri State, was 4-for-4 with a double and three RBIs as coach Ryan Wiggs and the Lancers reached the 20-win mark in his first season at 20-9
“It’s no secret, it’s a big game,” said Althoff coach Randy Wells, who starred as a catcher at Belleville East and later pitched for the Chicago Cubs. “Me and Vinnie (assistant coach Vinnie Birk) were both graduates here and this was my first time back (coaching) here since then, so it’s special.
“I love what Ryan’s doing, he’s a good buddy of mine, so it had that good feel. Any time you’re playing a city team it’s a rivalry and you try to perform. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t have it today.”
Freppon had a lot to do with that, as did the opportunistic Lancers’ offense.
“We’ve been preaching all season ‘Pitch ahead, pitch ahead, pitch ahead’ and he did a good job of that today,” Wiggs said. “No walks, and that’s something we’ve been working toward, and a lot of strike ones, which was good to see.”
An emotional Senior Night brought back plenty of memories, as well as a big offensive performance for an East team that checked in with 12 hits and nine runs.
“For sure, it’s always the best ones of the year by far,” Millas said. “However, we really need to carry this over to our conference games. The Senior Night mentality and the Senior Night atmosphere is something we strive to have every game.”
East ended the game with nine seniors on the field and senior Jeff Caringer managed his first hit in his first at-bat this season while pinch-hitting in the sixth.
East struck quickly, scoring three times in the first off Althoff starter Jake Frazier (2-3). Lindenwood-Belleville recruit Patrick Gaul led off with a double before Isaiah King reached on an error and Millas followed with an RBI single.
Hitt added an RBI single in the inning and Jordan Yates drove in a run on an RBI groundout.
“We didn’t help him,” Wells said of Frazier. “We weren’t ready to play at the start and it showed. It’s been the same case the last four or five games, we spot them (a lead) early and then play catch-up the rest of the game.”
Frazier pitched well after that until the fifth, when the Lancers broke things open with a five-run inning.
Millas had an RBI double in the uprising and Hitt added a two-out, two-run single.
“All the seniors got honored and I was happy that they got to end the game with all of them on the field, that was kind of cool,” Wiggs said. “There’s a little something extra when you play Belleville teams, whether it be West or Althoff. I think our kids really stepped up the intensity today because they were ready to play Althoff.”
Freppon (3-2) surrendered two hits in the first, then held the Crusaders (11-7) hitless until Jack Ysursa singled leading off the fifth.
“He threw strikes and came right at us, mixed it up good,” Wells said. “We didn’t really have a chance from the beginning. We talked about it all week at practice, this was a big game for us. We had a game plan and an approach, we didn’t execute either one.”
Millas and Freppon were on the same page all day when it came to working the strike zone and mixing pitches.
“He’s always excellent, he’s a bulldog out there,” Millas said. “He’s really worried about his hair on the mound, but other than that he pitched well. It’s awesome to have him on the mound, we have a lot of confidence behind him.”