Despite working the final two innings on the mound Friday during Belleville West’s 18-inning regional semifinal win over Belleville East, Maroons’ junior Jack Lanxon apparently had a lot more left in his fuel tank.
Lanxon threw all seven innings Saturday as the Maroons overcame an early 3-0 deficit and stunned top-seeded Edwardsville 8-4 to win the Class 4A Belleville West Regional championship.
“I didn’t want it more than anyone else did, but I just knew I had to go out there with my best stuff and do what I could,” said Lanxon (3-0), who picked an optimum time to throw his first complete game this season while earning his second victory in less than 24 hours.
“That’s rather unusual, I would think,” Belleville West coach Todd Baltz said of the back-to-back wins.
The Maroons (24-8), who won their second regional title since 2007, will face O’Fallon (32-5) in the sectional semifinal Wednesday. West took down Edwardsville (29-8) on the strength of a six-run fourth inning that included three RBI singles and two Edwardsville throwing errors that led directly to runs.
“If you look at our statistics and all of those things we’re not going to shock anybody,” Baltz said. “Nobody’s scared of us, and that’s a good place to be sometimes because I think our side was probably the only side that expected anything to come out of this.
“We surprised somebody today, but credit to our kids, they battled. That’s a very good team over there, everybody knows that. But in the postseason, anything can happen.”
An RBI single by Jake Garella and a two-run homer in the first by Tyler Stamer put Edwardsville on top.
“That was a killer, but we knew we could bounce back and we definitely did,” Lanxon said. “These guys fought like crazy, it was unbelievable.”
Tigers left-hander Tyler Hosto didn’t allow a hit until Logan Betz singled leading off the fourth. That ignited a six-run inning as the Maroons sent 10 men to the plate.
Betz’s single and a bunt single by Cal Kossina got things rolling and Lanxon delivered an RBI single to left. Luke Vallandingham walked to load the bases before a wild throw home by Edwardsville third baseman Garella on Austin Guetterman’s grounder allowed two runs to score as the Maroons took the lead.
A wild pickoff throw by reliever Andrew Yancik led to another run and Wyatt Parker and Buddy Gore each had RBI hits in the inning.
The Tigers got a run back in the sixth on an RBI double by Collin Clayton, but West added two big insurance runs in the top of the seventh on Trey Riley’s bases-loaded walk to Nick Oglesby and a wild pitch that allowed Lanxon to score from third
Lanxon struck out three of the four batters he faced in the seventh to close out the win.
“Boy, credit their pitcher,” said Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser, whose team stranded 10 runners. “He threw two innings yesterday and flashed around in the outfield the last two days. What a great competitor.
“He made some good pitches and we just didn’t come through, especially with two outs. Even if we just add a run here or there, I think it puts a lot more pressure on them and they probably have to get into their (bull)pen. We were never able to get him out of the game and I think that could have been a big factor for us.”
Pitching was a definite concern for West, which used top starters Luke Vallandingham and Kossina along with Lanxon in the 18-inning game against Belleville East on Thursday and Friday.
“Our biggest concern was pitching, who we were going to bring back,” Baltz said. “We went through all the scenarios and put our best offensive lineup out there and best defensive lineup. We figured we were going to have to hit with them and we gave it to Jack.”
That turned out to be a great call as Lanxon kept dancing around trouble. The Tigers left two runners on in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings and were unable to collect a big hit.
“We told him go as long as you can, and he decided he was going to go the whole time,” Baltz said. “He pitched a hell of a game.”
Lanxon credited Kossina, his catcher, for his help on Saturday.
“He knew what I wanted to throw and I knew what was working for me,” Lanxon said. “We were able to stay on the same page the whole game and it was just awesome.”