BELLEVILLE - The Edwardsville High School baseball team just had arguably their toughest stretch of three games so far this season. The Tigers went 1-2.
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It took Cole Funkhouser's walk-off RBI single to nab a 2-1 win over the Belleville East Lancers back on Tuesday at Tom Pile Field. After that, Edwardsville hosted a red-hot Columbia Eagles team that's off to a 26-3 record.
Thursday afternoon, the Lancers and Tigers ran it back.
The talking point of Thursday's game was undoubtedly Belleville East's ace, senior Zander Mueth.
The Ole Miss recruit drew one of the largest crowds of scouts seen in some time. Not just college scouts either, with Mueth having a possibly of being drafted in the upcoming MLB Draft.
He threw four and a third innings against the Tigers, striking out four and allowing just one hit. Things didn't start the way he would have hoped.
Funkhouser hit a leadoff single and then Joseph Chiarodo and Riley Iffrig were both walked to load the bases. Andrew Hendrickson's sacrifice fly ball scored Funkhouser from third to make it 1-0 early. Mueth still picked up two Ks in the inning to minimize the damage.
That proved to be Mueth's only mistake, and Edwardsville's only hit off of him. Mueth struck out the side in the fourth and the first batter of the fifth. He was pulled after losing control of a pitch and hitting Funkhouser in the helmet. Funkhouser got up immediately, shrugged it off, and took his base. Mueth's day was cut a little short.
Chiarodo started on the mound for the Tigers and went the first four innings. He struck out four allowing two earned runs on three hits.
The Lancers' offense came alive in the bottom of the second when they had a two-out rally.
Carson Rapp was walked and then Jalen Jones singled, sending Rapp all the way around to third. Tommy Kramkowski came up and whacked a two-RBI double to take the lead at 2-1. Chiarodo eventually got a strikeout to get out of the inning.
What came next was three straight scoreless innings. Mueth was replaced by Owen Kelly. Chiarodo was switched out with Hendrickson.
The Tigers still had enough in the tank to comeback. Caleb Copeland hit a leadoff double in the top of the sixth. Hendrickson doubled, trading places with Copeland to make it 2-2.
Drew Frese pinch ran for Copeland. Frese made it to third after Lucas Huebner's groundout. Frese scored the go-ahead run after Kayden Jennings hit a sacrifice fly to left. The Tigers led 3-2, but not for very long.
After a flyout to kickoff the home half of the sixth, Nolan Seneczyn was walked. Ean DiPasquale hit into a fielder's choice that saw both runners end up safe. Ty Reach hit a bases-clearing triple and then was batted in by Rapp's RBI-single to make it 5-3.
Kelly did his job pitching and blanked the Edwardsville bats in their last chance in the seventh. Kelly earned the win by a 5-3 scoreline.
This was the third straight game, in as many days, that Edwardsville has had to go through the gauntlet, each time against a Division I prospect pitcher.
Tuesday the Tigers saw East's Dylan Mannino (Western Kentucky) and in an 8-5 loss against the Columbia Eagles, they saw the dominant Dominic Voegele (Kansas).
Despite the loss, it's still great competition for Edwardsville heading toward the postseason.
Speaking of which, the Class 3A brackets are out and the Tigers officially earned the No. 1 seed in their respected Sub-Sectional. They'll begin the playoffs when they host No. 7 Quincy on Wednesday, May 24 at 4 p.m.
Edwardsville has the privilege of hosting its Regional before hopefully advancing to the Bloomington Sectional where they could play at a familiar Illinois Wesleyan University.
Before then, the Tigers are back in action today, May 12, weather permitting. They are scheduled to take a short roadtrip over to Jerseyville to take on the Panthers at 4:30 p.m.
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