By Robb Hemmelgarn
MINSTER -- For the past couple of seasons, the Minster Wildcats have had Marion Local's number in baseball, particularly at tournament time. Even with ace Corey Luebke on the mound for the Flyers in 2003 and 2004, the Wildcats shut them out each of the past two seasons en route to long postseason runs.
With Luebke now starring for the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Wildcats were looking to make it three in a row over the Flyers as both squared off for the sectional championship at Hanover Street Park on Saturday.
It took two comebacks for the Flyers, but they were eventually able to knock off the Wildcats on their home turf, 6-5 to advance to the district semifinals a week from today. They will face the New Bremen Cardinals who shut out the Fort Recovery Indians later in the afternoon by a 3-0 margin.
"This is a fantastic win for the program, and it is definitely a step in the right direction," commented Flyer head coach Chad Wells. "We beat a very good baseball team today and a very fine program. Minster is a well-coached team, and we have a lot of respect for them. Today we battled back twice and got some big hits when needed, and fortunately we were able to come out on top."
The Wildcats cracked the scoring column in the bottom of the first inning when senior lead-off hitter Ty Parks was hit by Kyle Moeller's pitch. He later scored on an RBI single from sophomore Bob Inskeep to put Minster on top, 1-0. The advantage lasted until the top of the third inning when the Flyers were finally able to penetrate Wildcat starter Dusty Ellis. Through the first two frames, the senior southpaw allowed just one hit, while striking out four Flyers.
A two-out double by Mitch Thobe was followed by a walk and a hit batsmen to load the bases for the visitors. Another free pass from Ellis plated Thobe, and a double by Kyle Moeller cleared the bases to give Marion Local a 4-1 advantage.
Although the Flyers secured the lead, most in attendance figured they would need more insurance to keep the Wildcats away, and that certainly proved to be the case.
A solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning by Chris Stueve cut the Wildcats deficit to a pair of runs. An inning later, with one out and two runners on base, Inskeep slammed a home run to rightfield to suddenly push Minster ahead, 5-4.
Minster maintained the one-run lead until the top of the seventh inning when Mitch Thobe led off by getting hit by a pitch. Joe Kemper then reached base on an error, giving Troy Luebke a pair of runners on base with no outs. The junior grounded into what was originally called a double play, however the decision was reversed by the home plate umpire, and Luebke was awarded first base while Thobe stayed at third.
With two away and the bases juiced, Marion Local's hopes laid on the bat of shortstop John Alexander, who was 0-3 to that point in the game. Ellis got ahead in the count early, but Alexander quickly smacked a single which plated a pair of runs to give his team the 6-5 lead.
The Wildcat's (11-8), were down to three outs as Ty Parks led off by reaching base on an error. He promptly stole second base and advanced to third when Alex Stricker was thrown out at first. Inskeep then stepped to the plate and sent a rocket to centerfield which was caught and then another fly ball to centerfield by Eric Bernhold ended the game and gave the Flyers (12-9), the sectional championship.
"It was one of those days where it just wasn't meant to be for us," explained Wildcat coach Mike Wiss. "They (Marion Local) did what they needed to do to win. We got some good shots and had the lead, but we couldn't hold it. In big games like this you've got to be sure to make the routine plays and you can't give a lot of free passes -- we just did that too much today."
New Bremen 3, Fort Recovery 0
In the second game of the afternoon, the New Bremen Cardinals looked to gain revenge on the Fort Recovery Indians, who knocked them off in a league contest the evening before.
The Cardinals got off to a great start in the first inning when Brian Garman plated Andy McMurray with a single, for a 1-0 lead.
McMurray connected for a two-out triple in the second inning and scored a few minutes later to extend his team's advantage to 2-0.
"We knew coming into today's game that if we could put the ball in play that good things would happen," commented New Bremen coach Justin Firks. "We were able to pick up some hits in the first two innings and turn them into runs and that really helped us for the remainder of the game."
Fort Recovery (11-12) starter Todd Post slowed down the Cardinal scoring attack in the third and fourth innings by retiring the home team in order during both frames. However, things quickly fell apart in the fifth inning when McMurray led off with a walk. He scored his third run of the game a short time later courtesy of another RBI single by Garman.
Although they managed to get a runner in scoring position in both the sixth and seventh innings, the Indians could not pick up any runs and fell by the 3-0 final.
"We gave New Bremen too many chances, especially early in the game," remarked Fort Recovery head coach Aaron Vaughn. "We gave up some runs and against a great pitcher like Leugers, it makes it that much harder to battle back and we found that out today. I thought we played aggressive on the defensive side for the most part, but it just wasn't enough in the end."
For the contest, the Cardinals (12-9) picked up five hits, and were led by McMurray and Garman, who each collected a pair.
From the mound, Alex Leugers allowed no runs and just four scattered hits, while striking out eight Indians.