GLEN CARBON - Chase Milburn turned in another solid pitching performance, striking out 10 in six innings, while Lucas Krebs delivered what proved to be the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the second inning to help Edwardsville to a close 3-2 win over Alton in the semifinals of the IHSA Class 4A Illinois Wesleyan University sectional late Wednesday afternoon at Father McGivney Catholic’s Griffins Field in Glen Carbon.

The Tigers once again advance to the sectional final/Round of 16 game, which will be played Saturday morning at IWR.

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It wasn’t an easy game at all. The Tigers scored twice in the bottom of the first to counter a run scored by the Redbirds in the top half, with Krebs’ RBI hit proving to be the difference in the game.

“I’ve got a ton of respect for Coach (Scott) Harper, and that pitcher (Reid Murray) too,” said Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser. “And you could tell, just the way they’re competing throughout the season, they know they could go out and beat anybody. They take good at-bats, and their pitching has been good, too. So, it was good for us to bang out a few hits and battle back there in the first.”

The Tigers didn’t do particularly well in one phase of the game, but with the strong performance from Milburn, and later Hunter Baugh, on the mound, it didn’t hurt the Tigers at all.

“We didn’t do a good job in situation stuff today,” Funkhouser said, ”During the season, we’ve done it at times, but we really haven’t done it as well so that’ll be a point of emphasis that we’ll be able to continue to work on. We’ve played a lot of games without (Joe) Chiarodo, so we should be able to score runs, and be able to manufacture runs, anyway.

"We didn’t get to manufacture as many today, and we really didn’t have as much to take advantage of the other team, more of the positions we’re in. But we should have moved runners twice; we struck out one time looking, and another time, we flew out. Those are the time where we really need to tack on runs. Fortunately, it didn’t come back to bite us, but it very easily could of.”

The Redbirds advanced to the sectional for the first time since 2013, and were playing with nothing to lose. It made for a much more dangerous opponent for Edwardsville, and Funkhouser had tons of praise for Murray after the game.

“Oh, definitely,” Funkhouser said. “Whenever we played them in the regular season, that pitcher (Murray). Man, he competes, and I like his stuff. He just keeps competing. Every once in a while, you’ll face a guy that’s got good stuff, and you’ll see a little crack. I mean, that guy, I shook his hand in the line, and I hope he knows it, but he’s a heck of a competitor. I respect him a ton.”

Milburn’s performance was a prime example of how good the Tigers’ pitching has been so far this season.

“Well, our pitching’s been really good,” Funkhouser said. “And I love the way they go about it. Truthfully, Chase wasn’t that sharp. He wasn’t as sharp as he was the other day. But he continued to work into it. I thought the first couple of innings, in particular, he was having a hard time finding tempo. I think his foot completely ripped on the mound, as he was dragging it down.

"And he was battling, his overall tempo with himself. So, we’ve had great pitching depth throughout. I challenged them early on, I was like, 'Hey, some of you guys might be like, hey, why am I not getting as many innings?' We have such a great, deep pitching staff, but at the same token, we need to throw up some zeros. We’re that good, and we’ve thrown up two in the first two games, and held them to two here. So that was all we can ask for.”

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Harper gave Edwardsville many props for their getting the two runs in the opening inning, that would prove to be big later on.

“We missed our shift, and we had the scouting report,” Harper said. “They got two balls, both in the opposite field, and they get the two runs in the first. And that’s kind of important. But we did. We competed. We played a solid game and took advantage of the first inning to get on the board. and kind of put a little pressure on them. They answered back and responded.”

Harper had all sorts of praise for Murray, who went all the way on the mound, and kept the Redbirds in the game.

“Reid threw well,” Harper said. “He competed, he kept us where we needed to be.”

The Redbirds stole six bases during the game, which allowed them the opportunities, but Milburn and the Tiger defense kept denying Alton

The Redbirds had a big chance to go ahead in the third, when a run scored on a dropped sacrifice fly. But Alton couldn’t get quite over the hump.

“Yeah, that’s a tough spot,” Harper said. “Like I said, I told the guys we gave ourselves chances. We had a couple of guys in good scoring positions, but had a couple of strikeouts. It would have been nice to put the ball in play, and see what happens. That’s what we were able to do Saturday, but you need to tip your cap, Milburn did a good job of missing up, and putting the ball in places we had trouble. And that’s the way it goes.”

The Redbirds struck first in the opening inning, with Deon Harrington drawing a lead-off walk, stole second, and scored on a two-out single by Alex Siatos to put Alton up 1-0. The Tigers came right back with two runs in the first, starting with a single by Kolton Wright, who came around to tie the game on a double down the right-field line by Krebs. Designated hitter Chase Alwardt gave Edwardsville the lead on a double to score Krebs and give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

In the second, back-to-back walks to Mace Karnes and Wright, with two out, set up Krebs, who singled home Karnes, sending Wright to second and put the Tigers up 3-1. In the Alton third, a lead-off triple by Harrington and Murray reaching on a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners. Harrington scored on a sacrifice fly by Siatos to right, where the ball was dropped, Murray going to second, as everyone was safe. Milburn struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

The rest of the way, both Milburn and Murray pitched very well, with Milburn striking out a total of 10 batsmen. Baugh came in the seventh and set Alton down in order to preserve the 3-2 win.

Edwardsville goes to 29-8, and will play in the final at Jack Horenberger Field against Bradley Bourbonnais, who defeated Normal Community in the other semifinal 3-0, Saturday morning at 11 a.m.

The winner goes back to Illinois Wesleyan for the super-sectional/state quarterfinal game against the winner of the Plainfield North sectional, either Downers Grove North or Aurora Waubonsie Valley, Monday night at 6 p.m.

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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