The Bulldogs baseball team was sitting pretty after the first inning against Edwardsville on Friday.
Waterloo (8-1) was up 4-1 on the Tigers (5-5), after an RBI single by Logan Mueth to tie the game. It was a double by Jeremy Rettig, who was also on the mound that day for WHS, with the bases loaded that showed Edwardsville that Waterloo intended to beat them for the second time in 17 years.
The last time WHS beat the Tigers, was in 2011, when the team, who later went on to place third at state, defeated Edwardsville for the first time since the teams began playing 15 years prior.
“We put a team like Edwardsville on our schedule to improve us,” WHS baseball coach Mark Vogel said. “Anytime you beat a team in the Southwestern Conference it’s a good win.”
Rettig’s big hit to put the Bulldogs up 4-1, was answered by a Tiger run in the second, followed by two and a half innings of no scoring.
After four innings and two strike-outs for Rettig, WHS brought in junior Austin Nunnery in the fifth.
Fellow junior Tyler Hebel also contributed on offense that inning, driving in Alex Wittenauer on a sacrifice fly, pulling the ‘Dogs out in front further, 5-2.
But coach Vogel’s mental approach to the game became critical for WHS in the final inning of the game, when the Bulldogs looked like they could almost give it away.
Nunnery walked three Tiger batters and then allowed a base hit, putting Edwardsville closer at 5-3 with the bases loaded.
“We want them to prepare the same way every pitch,” Vogel explained. It was something Nunnery must have been going through in his mind when he closed out the game on a pop fly caught by senior Ethan Ruff, to end it, 5-3.
Vogel says his team has to take that same “one pitch approach” going into the grind of the rest of the season.
That grind began Monday in the team’s first conference game against Jerseyville on the road.
“We just didn’t come ready to play,” Vogel said of his group who was down 1-0 going into the fifth inning.
The Bulldogs went on to score four runs, that were answered by the Panthers three. That had the game tied at 4-4 going into the final inning after no runs scored in the sixth.
Vogel said his team probably didn’t deserve to win that game but his veterans stepped up and delivered when it mattered most.
In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs and a runner on third, Wittenauer stole home plate on a wild throw into the backstop, literally stealing the win from the Panthers.
“His experience of playing over 80 games at the varsity level really showed,” Vogel said, adding that the senior was the star of the game.
Wittenauer also pitched all seven innings against Jerseyville, getting the 5-4 win.
“We can compete with anyone,” Vogel said of his team after a tough week of competition. The coach reiterated that his team will have to maintain that same “one pitch” approach coming into this week’s match-ups, where they will host conference foe Civic Memorial on Wednesday, Valmeyer in a double header at GCS Ballpark in Sauget at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Mascoutah on Monday.
WHS will then take on Gibault next Tuesday in a warm-up for the following weekend’s Monroe County Tournament.