By Gary R. Rasberry
MINSTER -- It was appropriate for a baseball game on the Fourth of July to have a little bit of fireworks.
Minster gave up eight runs in the first inning to St. Marys in the Auglaize County ACME sectional championship game, then tried to scrap their way back into the game.
The comeback was complete in the top of the seventh as Minster sent 12 men to the plate and scored six runs to win the sectional title with a 13-12 victory at Hanover Street Park.
The win puts the Wildcats as the top seed from the county at the district tournament starting Sunday at the Wally Post Athletic Complex in St. Henry. St. Marys is the second seed after earning a district berth earlier on Monday with a 4-3 win over Wapakoneta.
The unbelievable comeback had the Minster coaches changing their thinking from who to pitch if St. Marys forced the second championship game to be played tonight to what to do to get ready for the district tournament starting Sunday at St. Henry. "On a normal weekend, maybe," said Minster coach Austin Kaylor about the thoughts of changing thought of district to a possible second game. "That's something we don't like to think about. The way this weekend has gone (Minster won all three of its sectional games coming from behind, including Saturday's game against St. Marys coming back from 3-2 to win 10-3 with eight runs in the seventh), who knew how this would end."
The Roughriders got to Minster starter Jake Luttmer right off the bat, getting three runners on before the first out of the game. Koby Frye had a big hit with a two-run home run over the leftfield wall to make the score 4-0. St. Marys sent 11 men to the plate, scoring the brunt of the runs thanks to two big Wildcat errors, allowing only three of the runs in the inning to be earned runs. Luttmer left after the second inning trailing 9-0 after giving up seven hits.
"That's not the way to start the game," said Kaylor. "There's not much you can do but start chipping away. To win the game, you have to assume you have to hold them to nothing. We didn't really do that. We made it harder than 8-0 because we'd get 2-3, they'd get them right back."
The third inning saw a bit of comeback in the Wildcats as Luttmer cleared the bases with a three-run double to cut it to 9-3. While Luttmer had a rough day on the mound, his hitting was right on, going 4-for-5 with six runs batted in and three extra-base hits.
Nick Wyen came on in relief and allowed three runs on the day on six hits, but walked just one batter in five innings as the Wildcats tried to pump up the hitting stroke.
"Jake, it wasn't his day. We'll (the coaches) take the blame for that," said Kaylor. "Nick did what you'd ask him to do in that situation -- come in and throw strikes. If it gets worse, it's not due to us walking anyone. They hit him a little bit, but he stopped the bleeding."
The Wildcats scored a run in the fifth to make it 9-4 then, after St. Marys scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to make it 12-4, scored three in the sixth to cut it to 12-7. Luttmer, again, came through, doubling home a run.
After shutting down St. Marys in the bottom of the sixth, Minster went on a tear against reliever Aaron Pfeffenberger. Wyen walked to lead off the inning and Andrew Baumer grounded to second, but the ball went through the legs of Kyle Cheslock to leave all hands safe. After Allan Heitbrink and Dan Mueller struck out, Aaron Heitbrink walked to load the bases. Chris Stueve stepped up and doubled to the gap in right center, scoring Wyen and Heitbrink to make it 12-9. Luttmer stepped in and took Pfeffenberger's first offering to left center for a triple, scoring Aaron Heitbrink and Stueve to cut it to 12-11. Bob Inskeep grounded to second, but a misplay scored Luttmer to tie the game and put Inskeep at second. A wild pitch sent Inskeep to third as Eric Bernhold walked. With Wyen back up, Pfeffenberger uncorked another wild pitch to score Inskeep and give Minster its first lead.
"Our approach the last couple of innings was probably as good as it had been all weekend," said Kaylor. "There were some deep balls hit. I think Jake had two strikes on him when he hit his ball. It looked like we would be coming back tomorrow. That's all the credit to them, it's nothing we do out here as coaches that can do much about that. That's them getting it done."
Aaron Heitbrink came on to try and save the game for Wyen. Things started ot well as Austin Solomon lofted a foul fly to the right of first. Mueller, who went from catching to playing second base before going to first in the seventh, made the catch at the fence for the first out. Mitch Dunlap, who already had two doubles in the game, lofted an easy fly to center, which Luttmer made for the second out. Doug Burke, 3-for-4 in the game with three runs scored, stepped up and popped a fly between the mound and first base. Mueller tried to make the catch, but Heitbrink got in the way, resulting in an error. Heitbrink made up for the goof by getting Justin Bruns to look at strike three to end the remarkable comeback win.