BLOOMINGTON — Edwardsville junior Drake Westcott delivered two knockout punches Saturday in a high-scoring, momentum-filled baseball game.
Westcott hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam in the second inning, to lead the Tigers to a 12-8 victory against Normal Community West in the Class 4A Bloomington Sectional final at Illinois Wesleyan University.
With their state-best 18th sectional title, the Tigers (34-5) advanced to play Chicago Marist (27-10) at 6 p.m. Monday in the Springfield Super-Sectional at Lincoln Land Community College.
A Louisville recruit, Westcott accounted for seven of Edwardsville’s runs and his grand slam staked his team to a 7-2 lead.
“(Starting pitcher Austin Collinson) was trying to work the outer half with curveballs and fastballs,” Westcott said. “He missed his spot and threw one on the inner half and I hit that one a long way away.”
Edwardsville’s knockout blow came in the sixth inning after a Blake Burris single.
Westcott’s eighth home run of the season gave Edwardsville a 12-8 lead after Normal Community West had crawled within 10-8.
Normal West coach Chris Hawkins walked Westcott intentionally in the fourth inning after Hayden Moore hit a leadoff double for Edwardsville.
But Hawkins stood by his decision not to intentionally walk Westcott in either of the other two at-bats.
“At some point you have to make sure he has to earn it. I’m going to go down with the ship with our guys,” Hawkins said. “We’re not walking a guy with the bases loaded. Sometimes you just have to give credit to the hitter. We’re going to be watching him on TV and I’ve got a guy throwing 81 miles per hour giving it his all.
“Westcott earned it today.”
Edwardsville got into trouble in the first inning.
A pair of errors contributed to a 2-0 deficit after the first half-inning. In all, Edwardsville committed four errors, factoring into the Wildcats’ first four runs.
“We’ve been in situations where we can bounce back,” Tigers third baseman Max Ringering said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a 2-0 game, so we knew we would bounce back and had a lot of confidence in our pitchers shutting it down and we like our offense a lot, especially with (Westcott) over there.”
The bottom of Edwardsville’s lineup came up with timely hits.
Dalton Wallace entered the game hitting .194 and delivered a two-run single in the fourth to extend the Tigers’ lead to 7-4. Logan Cromer was hitting .204 before hitting a two-strike double to give Edwardsville the lead for good in the second. That also set the table for the Westcott grand slam.
Before the grand slam, Blake Burris dropped a successful drag bunt down the third base line after recognizing the third baseman playing back.
“Wallace’s double to leadoff that (fourth) inning and then Logan Cromer, who had been hit for in previous games, put a great swing on it,” Tigers coach Tim Funkhouser said.
Seven of the nine Tigers got a hit. Edwardsville had 18 baserunners on 11 hits (three doubles), six walks and a hit-by-pitch.
“It’s kind of nice to watch and know that you can have a weak spot in the lineup every once in a while and have your teammates pick you up,” said Ringering, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.