EDWARDSVILLE – Catcher Collin Elvers delivered the big blow, a three-run homer to climax a five-run second inning, while pitcher Reid Hendrickson struck out eight in four and one-third innings as Edwardsville defeated Civic Memorial 9-5 in a non-conference baseball game Friday afternoon at Tom Pile Field.
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The Tigers jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings, and then held off an Eagles rally in the final two innings to secure the win, upping their record to 16-7 on the year. CM fell to 13-6 with the loss.
Hendrickson contributed at bat as well, going three-for-three with an RBI and two runs scored.
“He was really good for us on the mound, held down their hitters,” said Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser, “and he's been really good at the plate, just driving runs in. Been a key to our offense.”
Hendrickson's performance came the day after he had a key two-run double that helped the Tigers defeat Granite City on the road.
“It bodes well,” Funkhouser said. “It lengthens our lineup, and he's been very productive on the mound, too. We just had some guys up and down the order, especially early on, put some good swings on some balls, so that was good to get out to a lead.”
The Eagles got off to a great start, scoring two batters in with a Caden Clark triple and a sacrifice fly by Zach Vaughn. But five errors in the field hurt CM greatly.
“Good start,” said Eagles coach Nick Smith. “I thought our approach at the plate was to be really aggressive early in the count on fastballs in the zone. Caden really set the tone for us with a ball in the right-center gap, it gets down, Vaughn has a nice at bat, and drives in him. We're off and running.
“But the kind of story for us was too many mistakes,” Smith continued. “Five errors, that hurts. You give a team like that extra outs, they're going to take advantage of it, and they did.”
The Eagles did get off to the early lead, thanks to Clark's triple and Vaughn's sacrifice fly. Edwardsville scored twice in the bottom of the first, starting with back-to-back singles by Drake Westcott and Hendrickson, both advancing on an error by the left fielder. A Jack Cooper single tied the game, and Josh Ohl reached on another error, allowing Hendrickson to score and give the Tigers the lead.
The Tigers scored five more times in the second, starting with a Blake Burris walk and a Westcott single, both advancing on a Clark error. Hendrickson doubled home both runs to give Edwardsville a 4-1 lead, and after a Cooper single, Elvers hit a three-run homer over the right-center field fence to push the Tigers advantage to 7-1.
“Collin got a couple of hits last night, and he got a couple of hits again today,” Funkhouser said, “and for him to hit that ball with backspin, look at that ball travel, was something to watch. That was a beautiful swing, and it was a big part of the game for us to kind of jump out to that lead and stretch it out a little bit.'
The Eagles failed to convert on four potential double plays, and it helped play a key factor in the game as well.
“Yeah, it's tough, that's tough,” Smith said. 'Those are extra ones, I think we had four double-play possibilities today that we didn't get. We've got to make those plays, and we have been.
“But we've got to get back after it tomorrow,” Smith continued. “We've got two games tomorrow, and we've just got to get this out of our head. I thought the last three innings, we played better, and a couple bad ones early, they got us.”
The Tigers scored single runs in the fourth and fifth to extend the lead to 9-1 before the Eagles rallied back in the sixth, all the runs scoring with two out. Back-to-back doubles by Geoff Withers and Hayden Sontag, followed by singles from Will Buhs, Keaton Loewen and Clark brought CM to within 9-4, and in the seventh, an RBI single by Withers brought home Sontag, but Jonathon Yancik got the final out to preserve Edwardsville's win.
Funkhouser gave credit to the Eagles for their fight back.
“Oh, yeah, they continued to fight,' Funkhouser said. “They continue to fight. I've got a lot of respect for all those guys in the dugout on the other side. Their coaches do a great job, and their baseball guys, and they're going to play to the end, you know that. We were fortunate we got out to that bigger lead, and I thought overall, we made some pretty good defensive plays out there, too.”
Smith does enjoy playing against the Tigers as well.
“Well, I enjoy playing Edwardsville,” Smith said. “I have a lot of respect for coach Funkhouser and coach (Mike) Waldo. It's a great program, and it's good for us.”
And the Eagles are looking for more consistency in their overall play.
“I still think we're better than what we showed today,” Smith said, “and I think that we've been kind of a little bit on a roller coaster. We're kind of hot and cold. We've got to be more consistent. And the big thing for us is we've got to worry about us, and take care of what we do.
And Smith had praise for his starting pitcher, Christian Stawar, who pitched a complete game with three strikeouts. It gave a big boost to the Eagle pitchers.
“He helped us a ton,” Smith said. “He really gutted it out, and really, I thought once we got past the fourth – second inning, really – after that, they're getting marks, but it's nothing too big. That big five-run second will kill you. But he really gutted it out for us, and did a good job.”
And the Eagles fight back late in the game is a very good sign for them.
Actually, we talked late, with three innings to go, we wanted to be more like what we've been,” Smith said, “and kind of get out of the rut we dug ourselves and see if we can leave here with a better taste in our mouths, and I thought the kids did a good job of really playing hard until the end.”
The Eagles play two games at Breese today, taking on Mater Dei at 10 a.m., and Breese Central at 1 p.m., then play a pair of Mississippi Valley Conference games this week, hosting Mascoutah Monday and at Jersey on Wednesday. The Tigers have two Southwestern Conference games this coming week, going to Alton on Tuesday and hosting East St. Louis on Thursday.
As the season heads into the stretch run, Funkhouser thinks that his club is starting to put things together.
“Well, I think at this point, it's nice to have good weather," Funkhouser said. “I think our guys enjoy coming out to practice, and our bats seem to be heating up. And as we kind of put togehter all the different parts of the game, I think we have the potential to be a really good club. We've struggled with inconsistencies at different times, but you can see some of our guys making some offensive adjustments at the plate, starting to build some confidence. And I think things are going to start clicking even more each week out, so we're looking forward to refining the rough edges, and getting out there and seeing what we do the next time.”
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