By Robb Hemmelgarn
MINSTER -- On the eve of each team's 2006 sectional tournament debut, the Minster Wildcats hooked up with the Marion Local Flyers in an MAC contest at Hanover Street Park last night.
With both squads preserving the aces of their pitching staffs for today's post-season games, the Flyers could have started Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson and it still may not have held off the Wildcat bats.
Powered by an eight-hit, nine-run fourth inning, the home team coasted to the 15-5 victory. The win pushed the Wildcats to 14-5 overall and 4-2 in the MAC, while the Flyers fell to 12-9 overall and 2-4 in the conference.
"Fortunately Allan (starter Allan Heitbrink), was ahead on almost every batter and his curve balls were right around the zone," remarked Wildcat coach Mike Wiss. "Marion Local can hit the ball well, and they showed that in the first inning. We didn't field the ball real well behind him at times, but he didn't let it get to him and that was good for us. We were able to do a lot of damage at the plate and much of it with two outs, which is something I like to see."
The visitors made noise in the top of the first inning, beginning with lead-off batter Mitch Thobe reaching first after being hit by a pitch. A few moments later, Troy Luebke dribbled a shot to shallow right field. Zac Boeke made an outstanding defensive play, but the attempt to throw Luebke out was a little wide, and Thobe scored to give his team the 1-0 lead. Luebke later crossed home plate on an RBI single by Jake Heitkamp. Trailing 2-0, the Wildcats took their turn in the bottom of the inning when Bob Inskeep reached base with a two-out single. Eric Bernhold stepped in and connected for what looked to be a high pop-out to right field. The more the ball lifted, the more it
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carried, until it eventually left the park and the score was knotted at two runs. Minster went right back to work in the second inning when Andrew Baumer and Dan Mueller reached base with a single and a base on balls. Both runners were plated with consecutive singles from Aaron Heitbrink and Bob Inskeep.
The Flyers cut their deficit to one run in the top of the fourth frame when Chris Wenning slammed a double and later scored on an RBI single by Marcus Moeller. The Wildcats left no doubt as to the outcome though, in their half of the fourth inning. Nick Wyen led off with a single, and from there the flood gates opened. The home team took advantage of seven more base hits and three walks to add nine runs in the inning for the 13-3 lead.
Faced with losing by a run-rule in the top of the fifth inning, the Flyers refused to fold. Marc Otte reached on an error and Luebke followed with a single. Both scored on singles by Heitkamp and Wenning, cutting the Minster advantage to 13-5.
Baseball is a roller-coaster game and right now a lot of our trouble is mental," said Flyer coach Greg Bruns. "I have no doubt we will bounce back from what happened tonight. I give Minster credit -- they are hot right now, but we will be okay. We hit the ball well tonight and that is a positive. Tomorrow is a new season with tournament and we get to start over."
Troy Prenger, who replaced Marion Local starting pitcher Kurt Heitkamp at the end of the previous inning, yielded lead-off base hits to Bernhold and Jake Luttmer. Chris Stueve then drew a walk to load the bases. Two more consecutive walks plated Bernhold and Luttmer to end the contest abruptly with Minster garnering the ten-run victory.
"We have been getting ourselves into a few troublesome situations defensively, but I like how we have been reacting to adversity," explained Wiss. "We need to keep our mental approach focused and continue hitting the ball well as the tournament approaches."
Both teams are back in action tomorrow in sectional tournament action at Minster with the Flyers facing the New Bremen Cardinals and the Wildcats squaring off against the Fort Recovery Indians.