By Lyle Kittle
ST. HENRY — Marion Local’s Cory Luebke turned in a dominating performance on the mound in the championship game of the 2004 WCSM-St. Henry Bank Invitational and his Flyers (3-0) took advantage of a disastrous sixth-inning defensive performance by St. Henry (4-4) to post a 7-1 win and take the tournament title on Saturday at the Wally Post Athletic Complex.
Luebke allowed two hits and a single run, while striking out 10 in five plus innings to get the win. Luebke’s first-inning double plated Flyers’ shortstop Adam Kremer with the game’s first run. Kremer had reached base with a one-out double off Redskins’ starter and losing pitcher Andy Dues.
For five innings, it was a strong pitching confrontation between two of the area’s best hurlers. Marion Local’s first-inning run was the only scoring in the game until the nightmarish sixth inning came around.
“You’re never comfortable with one or two runs against those guys,” said first-year Flyers’ coach Chad Wells. “Even with Cory on the mound, as a coach, you want a couple more runs.”
Kremer started the inning with his second double of the game, and in a tight game with runs at a premium, St. Henry coach John Dorner had a decision to make.
Dorner decided to give an intentional pass to Luebke, setting up a potential double-play situation and taking the bat out of Luebke’s hands. Marion Local’s Eric Schroeder came to the plate and gave Dorner just what the Redskins’ skipper wanted — a ground ball to his most sure-handed infielder.
But veteran shortstop Jeremy Schweiterman couldn’t find the handle on the grounder and things quickly went from bad to worse. Kremer scored from second on the play giving the Flyers had an insurance run across the plate and runners on first and second with no outs.
“Since our game with Celina, we’ve played very poorly,” Dorner said. “You’ve got to play a flawless game when you go up against someone like Cory. We gave the intentional walk and got the groundball. If we had turned the double play there, it’s a completely different ball game. We had the error and then another error and then an error on a bunt — it was like a circus out there.”
Curtis Moeller dropped down a bunt to move the runners along and Dues fielded the ball, trying to force Schroeder at second. The throw went into centerfield and Luebke scored with Schroeder going to third.
Moeller stole second to put two runners in scoring position and after Dues retired a batter, John Alexander singled to left to score Schroeder and Moeller came home when Rick Bergman mishandled the hit in left. Dustin Kremer’s single scored Alexander and Kremer came around to score when Bergman dropped Mitch Thobe’s fly ball.
“We’ve really been preaching about taking advantage of opportunities,” Wells said. “We’re solid offensively all through the lineup, but we’re not the kind of team that can just show up and score runs. We’ve got to do all the things a team needs to do to score runs. Getting the bunt down, moving the runner over, stealing bases, we need to be able to do that.”
The Redskins got their only run in the bottom of the sixth when Josh Schmackers’ groundball scored Matt Kremer.
The Flyers got to the championship game by pounding Botkins, 13-3, in five innings. Russell Moeller picked up the win and Alexander paced Marion’s attack with three hits. Flyers’ second baseman Joey Kemper reached base on each of his three plate appearances by being hit with a pitch by losing pitcher Jonathon Dietz.
St. Henry needed a two-out, two-run triple by Schweiterman in the sixth to break a 3-3 tie with Anna and send the Redskins to the final. Andrew Huelsman picked up the win in relief of Schmackers by retiring each of the 15 batters he faced.
“We have to regroup and gain some focus,” Dorner said. “It’s not going to be any fun if we don’t get back on track and play some better baseball. There wasn’t anything that happened today that we didn’t talk about happening. We simply lost our focus.”
The Flyers are back in action on Monday at Lehman, and St. Henry hits the diamond next on Tuesday, at Spencerville.