May 15, 2019 3:41 PM
EDWARDSVILLE – In what turned out to be one of the best games of the area high baseball season, Edwardsville sophomore center fielder Hayden Moore hit the first pitch of the seventh over the fence in right field for a game winning home run to give the Tigers a 7-6 win over O’Fallon Tuesday afternoon at Tom Pile Field.
The win clinched the outright Southwestern Conference championship for the Tigers, and Edwardsville coach Tim Funkhouser gave much credit to both teams after the game.
“O’Fallon’s been playing really good baseball,” Funkhouser said, “and they’re a good, quality club. They do a lot of things, the high pressure on the offensive end, and I thought their pitchers did a great job of keeping us off-balance and making pitches, and our guys continued to compete and make adjustments within the game, that I thought was important. And so, it was good for us to come out and win this game, and then, win the conference outright, and compete under this setting. So, we’ll take away some things that we could have done better, and we’ll work on those. And I think it’ll give our players a little heightened awareness when we work on a few things in practice, but there were some things that came out that we’ll need to get better at. But couldn’t be more impressed with our guys the way they competed, especially in the second half of the game.”
The Panthers certainly kept battling throughout the entire game and came back to tie it with three runs in the top of the seventh before Moore’s heroics.
“They kept taking good at-bats, and they battled up there,” Funkhouser said, “and they’ve got a very disciplined team that plays the game hard, and they do a good job at playing it at a steady pace, so we had to earn everything we got today.”
Moore’s home run came as a result of taking an aggressive approach to the at-bat.
“Yeah, he put a good swing on it,” Funkhouser said of Moore’s game-winner. “We’ve seen that, and that’s his A-swing right there. He got through one, and it was a big, clutch hit for us. And he’s been great for us all year and been a main component of being able to table-set, but drive runs in, too. He was able to get a pitch and put a swing on it, so it was fun to watch.”
It was a kind of an up-and-down game where the momentum swung around both ways, and Funkhouser was happy that his team was able to make adjustments as the game went on.
“Yeah, I didn’t think we did as well early on with some of that,” Funkhouser said. “We’ve been in some high-pressured games to try to win the conference outright, and put ourselves in kind of a postseason feel, here. I thought we got a little out of sorts early on in the game, but we did a great job of keeping our mind on game adjustments and trusting our abilities. Our guys have had a lot of success through the season, and they expect themselves to do well, and they did a great job executing.”
The Tigers also got a pair of home runs from both Joe Copeland and Joe Toscano to help their cause.
“Copeland, he really swung it well in the early part of the season,” Funkhouser said, “had a little injury, had some time off, and continued to battle back, and he’s starting to find his stride, too. But his maturity this year has been awesome. Just his ability to make adjustments and keep a calm demeanor, I mean, just banging that ball up the middle early in the game, being able to steal a bag. Those types of things he does with the great composure, and that’s what a senior-laden team needs, and that’s what he displayed, and just put a great swing on a ball, and that ball just kept carrying. And Toscano continues to work each day, and he’s got some bat speed. He put a swing on a good one, too.”
The Panthers started the game with a mild threat, with two out, when Wes Collins singled and stole second, and Kyle Becker drew a walk. But Matthew Boyer, the Tigers’ starting pitcher, struck out Tyler Stanton to end the inning. In the second, Luke Biehn singled and stole second, but was thrown out at third when the throw went into left-center field. Moore recovered the ball and threw a strike to the third baseman to get Biehn.
Edwardsville jumped out in front in the home half of the second. With one out, Copeland singled and stole second, went to third on a fly out, and scored on an RBI single by Dalton Wallace to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Wallace then stole second, and Toscano walked, but Logan Cromer’s grounder forced Toscano at second to end the inning.
Josh Gibson hit a one-out homer over the fence in left field to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the third, then O’Fallon went ahead in the fourth. Stanton singled up the middle, then went to second on a wild pitch. Stanton took third on a sacrifice by Cody Bauer, and scored when the throw to first was dropped to give O’Fallon a 2-1 lead. Biehn successfully sacrificed Bauer to second, then a walk to Drew Tebbe and a base hit by T.J. Morgan loaded the bases. But Logan Lowery hit into a fielder’s choice that forced Bauer at the place, and another fielder’s choice hit into by Gibson forced Bauer at second to end the inning.
Edwardsville tied it up again in the bottom of the fourth, starting with a one-out triple to the deepest part of the park by Josh Ohl, who scored on Wallace’s ground out to short. The Tigers retook the lead on 3-2 on a homer over the left-center field fence by Toscano.
The Panthers tied things up again at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, when Collins singled, went to second on a ground out, stole third, and scored when Stanton struck out, but the ball got away on a wild pitch, allowing Stanton to reach first. Stanton was caught stealing, and Bauer was called out on strikes to end the inning.
The Tigers took the lead again in the sixth, starting with a lead-off single by Max Ringering, who stole second. Copeland then launched a home run over the fence in right-center on a 3-1 pitch to give Edwardsville a 5-3 lead. Ohl then doubled, which brought in Lowery in from third to pitch, replacing Ben Koenig. Ohl stole third and came home on Toscano’s sacrifice fly to right to make the score 6-3.
Collin Salter was brought in to pitch in the seventh, and Lowery walked to start the inning. Gibson doubled to right center to put runners on second and third, and Collins singled home Lowery to cut the lead to 6-4, with Gibson going to third. Collins stole second, and after Becker struck out, Stanton singled home Gibson to cut the deficit to 6-5. Bauer was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, and Corey Quintal, batting for Biehn, singled home the tying run in Collins. Dawson Taylor then came in to pitch, and he struck out both Tebbe and Morgan to end the inning and keep it tied.
Moore led off the bottom of the inning and immediately hit the first pitch over the right field fence for the game-winning home run that gave Edwardsville the 7-6 win, with Moore being greeted at home plate by his teammates.
Boyer pitched well for the Tigers, striking out six in his six innings of work, while Taylor fanning the only two batters he faced. Koenig pitched well for the Panthers, also, striking out five in his five-plus innings.
The Tigers improved to 27-4, clinching the conference crown with a 10-1 record with one game left, which will be at O’Fallon’s Blazier Field on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. The Tigers are then at Triad on Friday at 4:15 p.m.,play their home season finale against Springfield on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., and go up against Waterloo at GCS Ballpark in Sauget Monday at 6 p.m. before playing Quincy in the Alton regional May 22 at 4:30 p.m.
Funkhouser is very happy for his team to win the conference title outright, and also knows there’s still much to accomplish before the postseason starts.
“We told our guys earlier, we don’t want to share, we want to win it,” Funkhouser said, “and we’ve played well enough to this point, let’s close the deal, and continue to prepare for the postseason, but more importantly, stay in the moment. And it’s good to win the title outright. We’ll look forward to practice tomorrow, and get back at it the rest of the week.”