By Steve Joos.
North Posey Black coach Damien Word told his team prior to last week’s South Gibson League tournament that they were one of the best teams in the league, if not they best.
On Saturday night, they showed they were the best.
Black plated five runs in the top of the fifth inning to back up the pitching of Christian Jones for a 10-0 victory over county rival St. Wendel in the league tourney’s championship game at Owensville.
“They finally proved me right,” Black coach Damien Word said. “I’ve been saying all year that I thought we had the best team in the league and today, all weekend, they’ve been proving me right.”
Despite the very hot weather, Black outslugged Fort Branch VFW 10-7 to reach the championship game and then got six innings of one-hit ball from Jones to put away their Posey County rivals and nail down the championship Saturday night.
“We just played baseball,” Word said. “It feels amazing. We can walk away knowing we had a chance. It feels good.”
“Black came ready to play and we didn’t,” St. Wendel coach Gene Wildeman said. “That’s what it boils down to.”
Black seemed to be ready from the outset, scoring two runs in the top of the first on a walk to Christian Jones and consecutive doubles by James Marshall and Jared Hostettler. They added a run in the fourth and then salted things away in the top of the fifth frame.
James Marshall led off the Black fifth by beating out a sharp grounder to short, stealing second and coming around on a one out double by Blayke Dillman. Tyler Wright singled in Dillman, pilfered second base and came around himself when Quinton Fife doubled with two outs.
Jones singled in the last two runs to round out the scoring before Austin Graves walked.
“Andy Herrmann was phenomenal tonight with four hits,” Word said. “He’s the catcher and I joke about his speed, but I think he had three doubles tonight. He and Blayke Dillman (three hits) just exploded on the ball, Jared Hostettler had a ground-rule double in the four-hole, my top three (Jones, Graves and Marshall) were always getting on base and making something happen. Our 4-5-6 hitters showed up today and just hit the ball hard.”
Word also complimented St. Wendel’s Derek Lindauer, the losing pitcher, but also complimented Jones for his performance.
Black loaded the bases in the top of the sixth on an error, walk and stolen base before Wright singed in the last two runs of the game.
In that game against VFW, Black overcame errors, stranded baserunners and a lack of players to survive a slugfest with the Fort Branch squad.
Fife played second base for the first time in the semifinals and turned in three phenomenal defensive plays, while collecting three hits.
“It was a slugfest,” Word said, adding that the aggressiveness may have played a role in the baseruning mistakes. “It was hot and everybody was trying to make something happen. We’d sore a run, they’d score a run and we just kept fighting and fighting.”
Marshall went the distance despite being hit for seven runs and threw as many pitches as there degrees on the thermometer (102).
Graves collected four this and drove in six runs against VFW, while Marshall added four blows and Jones drove in four. He and Marshall combined for 10 hits in Saturday’s two games.
St. Wendel reached the championship game with a 7-1 win over Haubstadt Legion in the semifinals.
“We battled through the afternoon,” Wildeman said. “Curtis Wildeman started, came through, and got us the win.”
Josh Elpers doubled, as did Derek Lindauer, who finished the day with two hits. Jacob McClain and Wildeman also singled.
Black took advantage of what Princeton Red gave them Thursday night for a 6-1 victory in the first game.
A week after Princeton Red run-ruled them in the last week of the regular season, Black strung together a series of clutch hits and wore down Princeton Red’s top pitcher, while taking Barney Phyffe’s advice when the Gibson County team tied running on them—Black nipped them in the bud.
“We played with a lot of hustle today,” Word said. “It was a hot day, we came out, took (batting practice) and melted a little bit, but we got our second wind, and played well.”
Word likened the contest to a boxing match, with the battery of Jones and Herrmann stopping Princeton White’s comeback tries with number of pickoff plays. He went on to say that his team may have also played with a chip on its shoulder after being run-ruled by the Princeton squad during the last week of the regular season.
Black took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning and then held on until taking two more runs in each of the last two frames. Jones escaped from a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth inning with just one run scored.
“We told them after the Princeton Red game that I still thought we were one of the better teams in the league, if not the best,” Word said. “I felt that tonight we put it together and we played good ball.”
Jones, Marshall and Graves kept getting on the bases and the middle of the order kept getting clutch hits to drive them in.
St. Wendel moved into the semifinals by blistering Princeton White 16-4 in a game called after five innings under the 10-run rule.
St. Wendel turned Princeton White black and blue by unloading for runs with just one out in the bottom of the fifth frame after breaking things open with a five-run fourth.
St. Wendel left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth and that weighed on Wildman’s mind—for a little while.
Once again, patience at the plate and taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes were keys to the win, Wildeman said.
”The inning took off,” the coach said. “Not swinging at a few bad pitches, we got a few clutch hits. We were able to save some pitching, which will be vital down the road.”
Lindauer collected three hits, including a double and the walk-off grand slam home run which ended the contest with one out in the bottom of the fifth frame. He finished with six RBIs on the evening.
Cumbee had two hits and drove in two runs, while Cardin collected two hits despite a knee injury. McClain singled, while Elpers singled and was on base five rimes, scoring five runs. Bryce Koester led off the fifth with a walk and then singled after St. St. Wendel had batted around in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Elpers, Koester and Jake Wenderoth were on base when Lindauer sent one over the right field fence to end the game.
North Posey Red erupted for seven runs in the fourth inning of their game with VFW Friday night, but the Fort Brach team answered with a couple of big innings of its own and eliminated Red 12-7 in quarterfinal action.
Two errors set up a three-run homer that put VFW back on top 8-7 in the fifth, something that has hampered Red all season, according to coach Zac Voegel.
“The lead off hitter struck out, a guy got on legitimately, then we had an error at short, an error in left field and then we struck a kid off before the home run,” Voegel explained. “If we make the easy plays, you’d like to feel that you could have gotten out of that. That’s kind of plagued us all year. You’ve got to be able to make the easy plays and we haven’t been able to that.”
Voegel was proud of the team’s ability to come back after falling behind 4-0 and taking the 7-4 lead.
Grant Scheller and Bo Cox each walked to open the Red fourth, but was still at first and second two outs later. That’s when singles by Ryan Daugherty and Glen Alexander brought in two runs. A hit batsman, single by Michael Sims, two more walks and a single Cox finally chased VFW’s starter and led to five more runs, which turned that 4-0 deficit into a 7-4 Red advantage.
But that advantage only lasted for one inning.
While he didn’t want to cite youth as a factor, Voegel did mention that there were four 13-year-olds in the starting lineup and that playing in the South Gibson League as a 13-year-old is difficult, but Friday’s game was still one that Red let get away.
Cox had three hits, while Zac Stoneberger, Daugherty and Sims each had hits.
Red opened its tournament trail by outslugging the hosts Wednesday night 13-11, shaking off a five-run sixth inning to help nail down the win.
“We jumped out early on Owensville,” Voegel said. “We had a 13-5 lead and then let them get back into it.”
The game changed a bit after a Red player was ejected for contact with an Owensville catcher in the bottom of the sixth. Owensville went from there to plate five runs and climb to within two runs at 13-11, but Red was able to hold them off.
Stoneberger and Connor Voegel each doubled, while Cox and Sims each singled. Dalton Rankin collected two hits with a pair of walks, while Daugherty and Christian Lebhart each had two hits.
Word thanked the parents for their help throughout the season and during the day Saturday.