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EDWARDSVILLE - Spencer Stearns hit his sixth home run of the season, a left-field shot, while Riley Iffrig his a homer that was part of an eight-run second inning that helped Edwardsville go on to a 10-0, four-and-a-half inning win over Alton in a Southwestern Conference baseball game Thursday afternoon at Tom Pile Field.
It was the Tigers' 17th consecutive win to remain undefeated on the season, and all systems are go on the Edwardsville team.
"I'm just real happy for our guys," said Tigers' head coach Tim Funkhouser. "I thought Jake Holder did a real great job on the mound and I thought we really competed well at the plate and took good at-bats throughout the game."
Stearns has been one of the catalysts for the Tigers as of late, with a homer in his sixth consecutive game, and Funkhouser couldn't be any happier.
"Yeah, he has," Funkhouser said, "and he works hard each day, he's a great teammate and just continues to try to make himself better and those around him. So it's fun to see him get rewarded for his hard work and he's got a lot of ability, the ball just jumps off his bat. And that was a great, great swing on a two-strike (count). He got a pitch a little bit middle, maybe even away, and was able to just put a great swing on it."
The rest of the team have played very well also, with everyone making contributions on a daily basis.
"Riley Iffrig had some really good at-bats," Funkhouser said, "and he's been working hard and trying to just create rhythm and tempo within his swing. I know on Tuesday at Alton, he had a couple of nice hits and increasing his extra-base hits and was able to put a 3-1 swing on a hard-hit ball to right and then, sure enough, launched one out of the park, into the wind. So that's something that adds so much more to our lineup when he gets in sync too. And we've had some guys putting some good swings on some balls and it's great to see him, because he's been hitting for a high average over the last probably eight to 10 games. He's been hitting for a real good average, but now, he's adding a slug on top of that, so that gives a lot of run production."
The pitching has been very solid as well, with pitchers competing for innings and have been very consistent as well.
"We've had a lot of guys kind of fighting for innings," Funkhouser said, "and we've had a lot of consistency on all our guys that take the ball out there and they know that they've got a lot of defense behind them, so it makes it fun to pitch, too. And they're great guys going out there and competing every day, so it's fun to see them pitch."
Stearns hit his sixth homer of the season with two out in the first, lifting a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left field to give Edwardsville an early 1-0 lead. The decisive second inning started with a single by Iffrig and an RBI double by Adam Powell, with Powell going to third on an error. Cade Hardy singled home Powell, with Jacoby Roberson reaching on an error by the shortstop, Hardy going to third, and Roberson stealing second before a walk to Kayden Jennings loaded the bases. Cole Funkhouser hit into a fielder's choice to second that forced Hardy for the first out, but Grant Huebner singled home two runs to make it 5-0. A Stearns sacrifice fly to left scored another run, with a single to Caleb Copeland putting runners at the corners. Iffrig then homered over the right-center field fence to score Huebner and Copeland ahead of him, making the score 9-0.
In the third, a Montrez West sacrifice fly to left scored Jennings to make it 10-0, and the pitching of both Holder and Andrew Hendrickson helped shut the Redbirds down, allowing four walks combined and no hits until a Deon Harrington single to right became Alton's only hit of the day as the Tigers went on to the 10-run rule win.
The Tigers stay undefeated at 17-0 and travel to Ozark, Mo., just south of Springfield, to play a pair of Kansas City-area powers, Liberty, Mo. and Liberty North, on Friday and Saturday at US Ballpark. The Friday game against Liberty starts at 3:30 p.m, with the Saturday game against Liberty North going off at 6 p.m. Edwardsville then returns to conference play with a series against Belleville West, with the first game next Tuesday at Tom Pile Field and the second game Apr. 28 at West, with both games starting at 4:30 p.m.
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