By Robb Hemmelgarn
ST. HENRY -- In arguably the most perfect day for baseball this spring, the 12th annual WCSM/St. Henry Bank Invitational took place at the Wally Post Athletic Complex, pitting a showdown between a pair of Midwest Athletic Conference squads against two teams from the Shelby County League.
Following over four hours of action on the diamond, John Dorner's St. Henry Redskins reclaimed the title they lost last year to the Marion Local Flyers by handing the Flyers a 10-3 defeat in the championship game.
The two local teams won big in their opening round contests.
St. Henry defeated Botkins Trojans, 9-3, while Marion Local, powered by a seven-run second inning, had little trouble dismantling the Anna Rockets, 10-2. The victories gave the Redskins their third straight win and fourth victory in their last five outings.
"Coming into this weekend, we had several goals as a team," explained Dorner. "Starting with our game on Friday against Houston, we wanted to continue improving and hopefully come out on top today, which is what happened. In those first couple of games of the season, we had a lot of trouble putting the bat on the ball. It has really come around lately and it is something that needs to continue." In the championship game, the Redskins jumped ahead in the bottom of the first inning when Mike Gast led off with a base hit and was knocked in a short time later with a double from Brady Schmitz.
St. Henry scored twice in the second inning, to move in front, 3-0. The visitors rebounded in the third inning as Chris Wenning opened with a one-out double, followed by another double from Mitch Thobe a few moments later, cutting the Flyer deficit to 3-1.
Matt Dippold began the bottom of the fourth inning with his second double of the contest and later scored on a wild pitch to extend St. Henry‰s advantage to 4-1. Ryan Ranly reached base on a walk, and after a series of defensive errors, he crossed home plate. Trailing 5-1, the Flyers made things interesting in the top of the fifth inning when Wenning led off drawing a walk. Mitch Thobe laid a bunt down the third base line, however the errant throw in attempt to get him out was enough to send Wenning home. After a stolen base and some heads up base running, Thobe scored to pull his team to within two runs at 5-3. "I am very happy with how we were able to run the base paths today and how we were also able to pick up some extra base hits in both games," remarked Flyer coach Chad Wells. "It was a pretty good day overall, obviously we would have liked to win the second one, but I thought the kids did a decent job and everyone did what was asked of them."
Everything was calm until the bottom of the sixth inning when the Redskins bats exploded, leaving little doubt as to the outcome of the game. A pair of throwing errors and a hit batter loaded the bases early for the home team. Ryan Ranly flew out to deep centerfield, but sophomore Kyle Bruggeman tagged up for the run. Mike Gast singled, plating Ryan Hartke, and Andrew Huelsman then drew a walk. With two-out and two runners on base, Brady Schmitz cranked his first home run of the season to give the Redskins the 10-3 lead, which they would hold on to. Schmitz‰ long ball capped off a stellar day at the plate for the senior. He combined for five base hits in seven at bats, including hitting for the cycle over the course of the two games. With a single, a double, and a triple in the opening game, he connected for another double and the home run in the championship contest. He also knocked in four runs and scored three times during the day. "Brady had an outstanding day today for us and was able to put the game away with his home run," said Dorner. "The same thing happened with Ryan Hartke in the first game. It was a pretty close game and his three-run shot gave us what we needed. If we want to continue to win, we have to provide that punch that puts teams away and I am happy with the way we were able to accomplish that today."
Matt Dippold and Mike Gast also added a pair of hits apiece in the final game, while Marion Local was led by Mitch Thobe with two hits in three trips to the plate against the Redskins. On the mound, Schmitz pitched the first four innings and gave up three base hits, one run, and a walk. Andrew Huelsman entered in a relief role in the fifth inning and finished by allowing two runs on one base hit, while striking out three batsmen. For Marion Local, Jeff Wolters went the distance, allowing eight hits, ten runs, and three free passes.
Anna defeated Botkins in the consolation game by a final of 2-0.
The Redskins are back in action today when they host the Spencerville Bearcats. Marion Local, whose record slips to 3-4, will also return to the diamond this afternoon at home to face the Sidney Lehman Cavaliers.