Supported by a balanced offensive effort that saw 11 different players reach base at least once and Alec Neal went the distance on the mound to lead the Schlarman Hilltoppers to a 10-3 win over the Westville Tigers.
Neal gave up eight hits while striking out two and walking two.
Zack Miller had two hits and four RBIs, Lucas Spezia had two hits and two RBIs, Matt Chamberlain had two hits and an RBI, with Brock Drews reaching base four times and driving in a run.
Batting lead-off Drews had three walks and had a single.
“I just try to find a way to get things started for the team,” Drews said. “We usually come out strong in games but it took us awhile to execute and get started today. Following the loss to Marshall, it was nice to come out today and boost our confidence with a win.”
Schlarman coach Jason Woodworth was pleased with how the game developed.
“We struggled early in the game due to the way Nick Jones was pitching for Westville,’’ Woodworth said. “He was throwing well but Brock especially made him work and we were able to execute some small ball and got some runs.
“We feel like we can compete with any time out with the quality of our pitching and Alec did a very nice job today changing speeds and doing what he needed to do to get a win against a solid team.”
The Tigers were led by three hits from Jon Hoepner, with Jones adding two hits.
“Schlarman is always a quality program and in the eight total years I’ve been associated with the program we have never been able to beat them,’’ Westville coach Joe Brazas said. “We weren’t as sharp as we were against Salt Fork last Monday but we feel like anytime we can make the other team hit the ball and get a few strikeouts we can compete.
“It was the walks and the hit batters that were a factor today and the triple by Miller was a big moment and he got that hit with two strikes. It was great to see Jon Hoepner get three hits. He has really been hitting the ball well lately with no luck. He is the number one leader on our team and came in the game in the fifth and did a nice job in relief. He is a really good athlete who works very hard.”
Drews led off a three-run third inning with a walk and Miller had a two-run single in the frame.
Schlarman increased its lead to 7-0 with a four-run fourth highlighted by run-scoring hits from Drews, Spezia and Miller.
Westville got on the board with a sacrifice fly from freshman Tyler Dicken in the fourth.
The Tigers would score two more in the fifth on a bases-loaded single from Zack Waclaw.
In addition to his offense, Drews ended the game with a diving catch, double play.
“I saw the ball well off the bat,’’ he said. “I had confidence I would be able to make that play. You just make plays when you can.”
Woodworth was pleased overall with what he saw defensively.
“Defense is a big focus for us and to turn three double plays in a game really hurts the other team,’’ he said. “We didn’t make any errors and were able to recover on plays like Zack did when he got the runner at the plate in the fourth.
“Our identity as a team is based on being able to do the small things in a game to get a win and to be ready to go for the post-season. When you play multiple times in a week you will have games like we did against Marshall, but if we play defense and do things like we did today we know we can compete and win games.”
With only one senior and multiple freshman Brazas wants to see his team learn from games like Monday’s.
“We are a very young team and we want to see the best,’’ he said. “That is how you learn to compete and get ready for regional. Our team needs to learn how to set goals and realize the amount of effort that it takes to move on to the next level and playing against top teams is how you do that.”
The Hilltoppers are now 9-5 overall and 5-2 in Vermilion Valley Conference. They return to action today at Oakwood.
The Tigers are now 4-10 and 2-4 and they return to action Wednesday at Bismarck-Henning.