EDWARDSVILLE - Both Edwardsville's Chase Milburn and Collinsville's Ethan Bagwell pitched magnificently, as Bagwell struck out 13, and Milburn throwing a three-hit shutout, as the Tigers used three fifth-inning miscues from the Kahoks to take a 2-0 win in the first semifinal of the IHSA Class 4A regional Wednesday afternoon at Tom Pile Field.

The start of the game was delayed for 45 minutes to get the field ready for play after a brief thundershower passed through the area. but once the game got started, the overflow crowd was treated to outstanding baseball, as the pitcher's dual was in force. Bagwell, at one point, struck out six in a row, and ended up with 13. Milburn was equally as good, scattering three hits while fanning four

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"Oh, I feel good," said Tigers coach Tim Funkhouser. "We really like our club, and the way they compete every day. Just great kids, and great competitors. Chase Milburn led the staff out there, dealing each pitch, and did an outstanding job. So proud of the way he competed, and trusting himself. That's kind of what he's been doing for us all year. But to do it on this stage here is something special. And Greyson Rathgeb, getting that double and getting it started, and then creating some havoc on the basepaths, getting us a run. Same thing with Hunter Baugh being able to steal a couple of bags there, and force the issue, was good and aggressive, and just a baseball player that impacted the club."

Just another day at the office for Edwardsville, known for their aggressive baserunning. And getting ready for the game itself was quite a task in itself.

"Yeah, I think we moved that tarp off at least twice today," Funkhouser said with a laugh, "maybe three times. We went through the weather right before we even started pregame. I love being a part of the postseason, I love seeing our kids compete in it. For us to be able to go and fight another day, and get back to practice tomorrow, find out who our opponent is, and be ready to go on Saturday will be fun."

The Tigers will be without key player Joe Chiarodo for the postseason, due to a lower-body injury, but it's nothing that won't faze the club, who has been playing hurt much of the season.

"Well, he's (Chiarodo) an outstanding player," Funkhouser said. "I mean, he's one of the best players in the whole area, as well as the (Southwestern) conference, et cetera. And we're missing him each day, with everything that he does, whether it's swinging the bat. being on the mound, basepaths, defense, et cetera. But he's been dealing with that for a little bit, and when it got to the point where we just needed to pull the plug on that. And his health is the most important thing for him. So, our team misses him, I know he he misses us. He's a great competitor, and it's just one of those things that's unfortunate.

"That being said, we've had some different times where we haven't been so-called full strength with all our guys," Funkhouser continued, "and I think our guys are used to playing with whoever's out there, they're going to go out and compete, and there's guys on the bench that are going to impact the club. So, there were times when we were trying to rest him, hoping he could make it through the season, and improve his situation. And the same thing with Lucas Huebner.

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"All year, we didn't have him play back-to-back games until the last few weeks of the season, because he was coming off an arm injury. There were multiple times when we had to have Joe bat, and he couldn't bat, and we had other guys out there. I think it made our team stronger, and I think that's going to help us, from the standpoint that it's not like our lineup's been drastically changed. because we've played that way at different times. It's not like to take anything away from Joe, because he impacts our club, a guy hitting .420, and what he does on the mound And we didn't even have him run after the first few weeks of the season. He'll get healthy, and we look forward when he returns."

The Kahoks had the first chance in the opening inning, when Bryce Lemp drew a one out walk, and with two out Adam Bovinett singled on a fly ball to left-center, a miscommunication between the left and center fielders leading to the ball dropping. But Rathgeb was able to recover and fired the ball to Lucas Krebs at short, who's relay throw was perfect to nail Lemp at the plate and keeping the game scoreless early on.

The two pitchers settled in and started dealing, especially Bagwell, who'll be playing next spring at Missouri, and had major league scouts out to see him. He started out by fanning 10 of the first 14 batters he faced, including six in a row at one point He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, to keep Collinsville in the game.

Milburn was just as effective on the mound, retiring eight in a row after getting out of the first inning, before giving up a fourth-inning single to Bovinett, who had two of the Kahoks' hits on the day.

With one out in the top of the fifth, Carson Parrill doubled to the gap in right center, and went to third on a ground out to short by Blaine Martinez Ben Tillman then hit a flare to right field that Evan Moore came up with a spectacular diving catch to rob Tillman and keep the game scoreless.

It was a key defensive play, as in the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers broke through for the only two runs of the game. Rathgeb led off with a double, and was still there with two out, when a pickoff throw got away, allowing Rathgeb to go to third on the error, then scored on a wild pitch to give Edwardsville a 1-0 lead. Baugh followed up with a single, and stole both second and third, scoring when the catcher's throw to third went into left field for another error, scoring Baugh with the second run.

Milburn retired the last seven in a row, getting a foul out to first for the final out to give the Tigers the 2-0 win to advance.

The Kahoks' season ends at 17-18, while the Tigers are now 27-8, and advance to the regional final against Thursday's O'Fallon-Belleville East winner, on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The winner moves on to the Illinois Wesleyan University sectional in Bloomington, and will play the Alton winner at a neutral site in Metro-East on May 29.

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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