Story by Steve Joos
The St. Wendel Babe Ruth baseball team has been having a pretty good season as the South Gibson League heads into its stretch drive.
St. Wendel took an 8-4 record into Monday’s game at Haubstadt against the Merchants, with a clutch 3-0 shutout over visiting Fort Branch VFW on Saturday.
Derek Lindauer fanned 11 Merchants enroute to the victory, which followed a win over North Posey Red, a loss at the hands of North Posey Black and a victory over Princeton Red on Wednesday.
St. Wendel opened the week by posting a 7-4 win over visiting North Posey Red, followed by a 3-1 loss at North Posey Black.
Drew Cumbee only let one ball get into the outfield, but Christian Jones threw just as well and Black manufactured three runs in the first three innings to pull out the win.
In fact, Jones played a big role in the manufacturing process, collecting a pair of hits with two runs scored.
St. Wendel coach Danny Embry said that Jones was throwing his breaking ball at odd points in the count and getting St. Wendel batters to chase bad pitches.
“He had us guessing a lot in the box,” Embrey said.
St. Wendel’s only run of the night scored in the top of the sixth inning, when Curtis Wildeman beat out a bunt and came around on a double by Josh Cooke.
Jones fanned 11 and tossed a five-hitter to get the win.
“For the most part, he (Jones) was pretty dominant on the mound,” Black coach Damien Word said. “He did what I’d been expecting of him, what I’ve been waiting for. He came out and showed us what it was all about tonight.”
Jones led off the game with a single, stole second and went to third on a bunt by Austin Graves before scoring on a single by James Marshall. In the third, Jones walked, stole his way to third and scored on a passed ball.
Black coach Damien Word expressed his respect for Embrey, adding that his team was able to play well with St. Wendel.
“Our guys have been playing St. Wendel, we’ve been battling them,” the coach said. “We’ve played with them, I’ve known coach Embrey for a long time, our teams have worked together and tonight we played good fundamental baseball.”
In addition to Jones, Graves got a hit and scored a run, while Marshall had two hits and drove in a run and Tyler Wright had a pair of hits.
Voegel also thought that his team did well despite Cumbee’s strong off-speed pitching.
The week may have started off on the wrong foot for Red as far as the scoreboard was concerned, but Red skipper Zac Voegel could see some progress.
“I thought we played a lot harder,” the manager said. “We made fewer errors and hit better. We’ve still got a way to go to improve, but I thought we went in the right direction tonight.”
The big difference for St. Wendel was a four-run outburst in the bottom of the third inning, when they strung a series of hits together and got back to the meat of their lineup, the 15-year-olds.
Things got kick-started for St. Wendel in the third, as the team took advantage of some Red miscues to plate four runs.
Damon Cardin hit the ball well, as did Lindauer and Bryce Martin.
Caleb O’Risky doubled with one out in the top of the first and Bo Cox followed with a single.
A throwing error brought in O’Risky and a single by Dylan Rankin scored Cox.
In the third, Ranking drove in another run, while Zac Stoneberger added another hit.
Rankin had a pair of hits for Red.
“Overall, we showed up defensive-wise,” coach Ryan Kearney said. “We played pretty sound defense, we came out and hit the ball well, and we made them make plays. We were locked in; we just put the ball in play and didn’t make any mistakes.”
St. Wendel lost to Oakland City 10-8 prior to their game with North Posey Red, stranding 15 base runners while giving up 10 runs in the first two innings.
St. Wendel also walked eight batters, eight of which scored.
A game against Haubstadt Legion tentatively set for Sunday was called off.
Both North Posey teams traveled to Haubstadt Saturday for games with the two Haubstadt squads.
How did it go?
Black struggled from the start and was hit by two big innings in an 8-5 loss to Merchants, while Legion hit Red with a pair of four-run frames enroute to a 9-2 romp over Red.
Black hit the ball well and the top of the other came through, but the team just didn’t seem ready to play the late afternoon contest, according to Word.
“I don’t believe we showed up prepared today,” he said. “Merchants just outplayed us, they jumped out on us, they hit us with three or four runs in the fourth, we came back and tied things up, but they put up another big number. They outplayed us, they made several big plays. We made several mental mistakes, but we just weren’t there today.”
Black didn’t commit many errors, Word explained, but they just didn’t seem to be ready for the game.
Three straight line drives to the gap opened the game for Merchants, followed by a dropped fly ball and some mental miscues, which led to three runs.
Dillman had a good game for Black, which managed to manufacture runs and stay in the game early, driving in four of the team’s runs. Jones scored a run, while Marshall added an RBI and scored a pair of runs.
The bottom of the order wasn’t as fortunate, hitting several balls which were right at opposition fielders.
Some of the younger players, such as Quinton Fife and Josh Wiggins, have been getting playing time and performing well, Word added.
Red scored a pair of runs in the top of the first inning and went silent after that, losing to Legion 9-2.
“We couldn’t seem to get the big hit and they were able to,” Voegel said. “It was 9-2 and we gave them four of five of them again, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. We’ve just got to hit the ball better.”
Red left the bases loaded twice, and then stranded two more base runners in another inning, as 13 baserunners were marooned on base.
Connor Voegel had two hits, including a double, while O’Risky, Cox, Grant Scheller and Christian Lebhart each had hits. Dalton Ranking had a pair of singles.
Legion answered Red with four runs in the bottom of the first, and then broke things open with four more in the bottom of the third, three of them on a home run by Mason Mockabee.
On Wednesday, Red erupted for four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and then held off visiting Princeton White 8-7.
“We played pretty good defense most of the game,” Voegel said. “That seventh inning got a little scary there. Our defense looked like we got a little bit of a lead, but we stepped off the game a little bit and relaxed, thinking the game was over. They (Princeton Red) didn’t think the game was over and they were ready for a fight.”
Quality pitches at the right time made the difference. With runners on first and third and the lead down to 8-6, Voegel called for his catcher to throw to second on swinging third stake, even though that would have meant a run for Princeton Red.
The strategy worked, as the strike-them-out-throw-them-out double play left the visitors with two out and nobody on base as the team’s ninth place hitter came to the plate. A strikeout ended the game and Red had its second win of the season.
Red was a little too aggressive at the outset of its big frame, as a leadoff single was erased when the runner was thrown out trying to steal second.
After that, Stoneberger reached on an error, then Rankin and Scheller each signaled, Sims was hit by a pitch, Alexander bunted his way on with a suicide squeeze, Ryan Daugherty walked to force in one run and Connor Voegel was hit by a pitch, forcing in another.
“We had a couple of good two-strike at-bats,” the coach said. “We stress two-strike batting and we did a good job of it tonight.”
Voegel singled, Caleb O’Risky doubled and Cox had two hits, while Rankin collected three hits, including a double. Stoneberger, Scheller and Alexander each had hits.
Stoneberger went the distance, something which Voegel was very pleased with, considering that no Red hurler had gone more than five innings so far this season.
Princeton Red topped North Posey Red earlier in the week, 7-1.
“They scored two in the third and five in the fifth,” the coach said. “They scored in just those two innings. We left a number of runners on base and didn’t hit the ball well.”