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EDWARDSVILLE – The Metro East Bears went out and clinched the top seed for next week's Illinois American Legion District 22 baseball playoffs with a 6-0 win over Smithton, a four-run fourth enabling Metro East to expand on a early 1-0 lead at Edwardsville High School Friday evening.
The Bears clinched the 1 seed for the playoffs with the win, where they'll take on East St. Louis at SIU-Edwardsville's Roy Lee Field Tuesday evening, with the start time yet to be determined; the Bears' other district playoff games will be at Hoppe Park in Edwardsville. Metro East improved to 27-7 on the year, 8-2 in the league.
The double-elimination district tournament runs through July 14, with the winner moving into the Illinois Fifth Division tournament in Highland the following week. Belleville still has a game left against Smithton Monday, but should the Hilgards and Bears tie for first, the Bears own the tiebreaker, run differential in head-to-head games, with the Bears at plus-6 to the Hilgards' plus-1. Kade Burns got the win for Metro East, going the distance and scattering four hits in blanking Smthton.
“I did tell them it was for first place (in the division),” said Bears manager Ken Schaake. “You can't just coast on this one; we talked to them about the (possible first-round) bye or playing East St. Louis in the first game. I pointed out what it was like last year – we were playing, and then we go to Highland where they had one of their better pitchers throwing against us, when we're already on No. 2. We lose, come back and play Belleville and we go back and play them. Now we're on (pitcher) No. 4 and they're on pitcher No. 2. It makes a huge difference to start off with the bye.”
Schaake was happy with the Bears' effort. “The kids played solid,” Schaake said. “Today was a good effort all around.”
The Bears grabbed the lead early when back-to-back-to-back singles from Joel Quirin, Blake Vandiver and Steven Pattan drove in Quirin for a 1-0 lead before breaking the game open with four in the fourth, highlighted by RBI singles from Pattan and Tate Wargo and a Burns sacrifice fly to center; Metro East added an insurance run in the sixth.
Burns had a RBI for the Bears, while Cole Hansel was 1-for-4 with a run scored, Quirin 2-for-4 with two runs scored, Vandiver 1-for-4, Pattan 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored, Wargo 1-for-3 with a RBI, Brandon Hampton 1-for-2 with a RBI and run scored and Will Messer a run scored. Burns struck out nine for the Bears.
Metro East closes out the regualr season with a 5:30 p.m. Saturday twi-night doubleheader against Shelby County at Hoppe Park in Edwardsville.
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