Eagles claim GVC Baseball Tournament title in extra innings over Belle’s Tigers

Will Johnson
Sports Editor

Playing two games in two days early last week, Belle’s Tigers and Vienna’s Eagles both won their respective pools setting up the Gasconade Valley Conference (GVC) baseball tournament championship game Friday night at Cuba.

Normally a high school baseball game last seven innings. Friday night’s showdown needed eight innings to decide a winner.

Tied at 4-4 going into extra innings, Belle scored a run on two hits and two walks to take a 5-4 lead into a do-or-die bottom of the eighth inning for Vienna.

Two hits, a walk and a hit batter later, Tyler Shalbot’s Vienna Eagles edged Chris Feeler’s Belle Tigers 6-5 in the first of three meetings between the two Maries County rivals this spring.

“The game was an exciting one,” Shalbot said. “Both teams struggled defensively and gave the other team runs.”

Between Belle starting pitcher Levi Fortner and Vienna starter Logan Agan, the first two innings were like a classic pitcher’s dual with both hurlers combining for nine strikeouts and no runs allowed.

Still scoreless going to the bottom of the third inning, Vienna finally drew first blood against Belle.

A one-out Timothy Schwartze single led to the first run of the game when he scored on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Gavin Stricklan giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead after three innings.

Feeler’s Tigers had a quick answer in the top half of the fourth.

Jat Ridenhour reached on an error before Fortner helped his cause reaching on a fielder’s choice.

With two outs and two runners on, Dylan Light hit a two-RBI single into right field giving the Tigers 2-1 lead at the midway point of the GVC title game from Cuba.

Moving to the bottom half of the fourth inning, Vienna looked to at least tie the game back up or take the lead against their Maries County diamond rivals.

Dylan Buschmann led off with a double before scoring when Spencer Wieberg reached on a Belle error tying the game at 2-2 through four innings.

“Defensively, we could’ve cleaned it up on a few plays in the game,” Feeler said. “Overall, we competed and that’s all I ask from the boys on a nightly basis.”

Tied up again going into the fifth inning, Agan retired Belle in order giving his Vienna offense a chance to retake the lead.

From the top spot in the lineup, Schwartze led off reaching on an error before an Agan ground out moved him to second base.

Already with a run batted in to his credit, Stricklan delivered his second RBI single of the game scoring Schwartze and putting the Eagles back on top 3-2 after five innings from Crawford County.

Seeing their errors turned into runs, Belle returned the favor in the top half of the sixth inning.

Lane Feeler and Fortner both singled and scored when Light reached on a Vienna error giving Belle a 4-3 lead heading to the sixth inning.

“Belle did a nice job of making us pay for mistakes,” Shalbot said. “They are well coached, very scrappy and always a tough game.”

Unable to score in the bottom of the sixth inning, Vienna turned to Stricklan to relieve Agan on the pitcher’s mound.

Pitching around a walk and a fielder’s choice, Stricklan kept Vienna’s deficit at one run heading to a do-or-die bottom of the seventh inning for the Eagles.

Pinch hitting for Levi Messersmith, Brenden Crowe came up with a clutch lead-off double.

His stay on the base paths was a short one when Zach Schwartze delivered a game-tying RBI single to right field scoring Crowe and tying the game at 4-4.

Stricklan walked with two outs later in the frame but was left stranded as the game went into extra innings at Cuba.

Going for their third lead of the game, Belle’s Tigers got it with two hits and two walks.

Ethan Loughridge singled to left field before walks to Light and Colten Robinson loaded the bases full of Tigers.

On the second pitch of his next at bat, Jeb Seaver singled down the third-base line driving in Loughridge putting Belle back on top 5-4 in the top of the eighth inning. Unable to do any further damage, Belle now found themselves three outs from the GVC Baseball Tournament title.

Buschmann led the bottom of the eighth off with a walk before being retired on a fielder’s choice which saw Trenton Rowden wind up on first base.

Sutton Hauck then singled to right field moving Rowden to second base before Messersmith being hit by a pitch loaded the bases for Zach Schwartze.

Running the count to two balls and two strikes, Zach delivered a walk-off two-RBI single scoring Rowden and Hauck giving the Eagles yet another GVC Baseball Tournament championship.

For both teams, the road to the GVC title game started last Monday night in Cuba.

Facing Bourbon’s Warhawks to open the GVC Tournament, Vienna put up two runs in the first and sixth innings before surviving a seventh inning that saw two errors and a balk from the Eagles.

Holding on to defeat Bourbon 5-2, Vienna then saw Belle take on Cuba’s Wildcats in the second game of day one of the tournament Monday night.

Behind a five-run fifth inning, Belle broke open a 2-0 game to post an 8-1 victory over Cuba giving Maries County baseball teams two victories to open the GVC Tournament.

Opening day two of the GVC Tournament last Tuesday, Vienna took on Steelville’s Cardinals.

Exploding for an 11-run bottom of the first inning, Shalbot’s Eagles went on to defeat Steelville 15-5 in five innings banging out 12 hits.

Agan paced the Eagle offense with two hits and six RBIs. Two of those came on one swing via a two-run home run as part of Vienna’s 11-run first inning.

Behind three hits and three RBIs from Ridenhour, Belle needed only three innings to win their second GVC Tournament baseball game by a score of 15-0 in three innings over Viburnum’s Blue Jays.

Belle and Vienna will both compete this weekend in the Calvary Lutheran Baseball Tournament with games to be played at Calvary Lutheran and at New Bloomfield.

They will play each other for the second time this season on Friday, April 12 at New Bloomfield at 5 p.m., before Vienna faces New Bloomfield at 7 p.m..

Belle’s tourney opener will be Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m., in New Bloomfield against the Wildcats.