This weekend was a baseball fan’s paradise at the 42nd Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic, and the Waterloo Millers were cruising on cloud nine.
“It’s fun, we had some great baseball. It was well organized. I thought we played outstanding,” Waterloo Millers manager Vern Moehrs said after his team took its 12th outright tournament title on Sunday.
“A baseball man came down here and said ‘I really enjoyed watching you guys play,’ and I think that’s a compliment.”
“We played the game, I think, the way we should’ve played the game.”
After topping the Lakers, 7-3, (story here) the Millers went on to defeat Fairview Heights, 4-1, in Saturday’s semifinal game.
With Andy Galle on the mound for the team, the Millers offense got on the board in the third inning off a wild pitch.
They went on to score two in the fourth inning off RBIs by Joe Winckel and Ryan Hall. Hall notched his second RBI in the fifth inning. Waterloo put up an additional run in the seventh to reserve their spot in the championship game, to which they came ready.
The title contest proved to be a true Mon-Clair match-up with the Millers, representing the Monroe Division, and the St. Louis Printers from the St.Clair Division battling it out on the hot and humid summer evening.
Moehrs reserved his go-to pitcher in 18-year veteran Millers ace Corey Blackwell, originally of Freeburg, now of Valmeyer, for the, 7-1, title match-up.
“Corey was super. A 36, 37-year-old man, you have to have the desire to win,” Moehrs expressed his confidence. “He leads in victories on the team over a period of time. He has won a lot of championships for me, I’ve got a lot of confidence in him to put him out there.”
Blackwell led the Millers’ power-defense Sunday, with the team notching a total of seven double plays in their final two games of the tournament.
“If you had to analyze a game, hitting is always fun. But I think our defense was as good a sandlot defense as you could see,” Moehrs said of his team, adding that they had just one error the entire tournament.
The Millers offense ultimately allowed them to put up seven runs on the board to the Printers’ one to win the championship.
Justin Dunning — two years removed from Quincy University — showed his MVP status, leading the Millers off with the first run of the title game after a string of singles.
“I felt comfortable and L.J. (Watson), he got on every time so it made it real easy,” Dunning, the tournament MVP, explained. “I just put the ball in play and L.J. was scoring, so it was awesome.”
Hall led off the second inning with a single to get the small ball going for the Millers in that frame, when Watson, formerly of the Gateway Grizzlies and William Woods University and from O’Fallon, stepped up a few batters later and blasted a double to put the Millers up, 4-1, over the Printers. His cohort in Dunning notched another RBI to put the Millers on top, 5-1, after two.
Perhaps Hall should be added to the hitters duo between Dunning (hit 7-for-13, 7 RBIs, 3 scored runs) and Watson (7-for-9, scored 3, 1 RBI, 2 doubles), as he launched a solo-shot to put his team up further, 6-1, to lead off in bottom of the third.
The following inning, Winckel would make it from first to third in one play — a steal and wild throw at second. He came home on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Jeremiah Bergheger for the final run of the game.
The Printers had a chance to inch closer in the top of the eighth with runners on first and third and one out, but they weren’t able to capitalize.
On Sunday in Borsch Memorial Park, the Millers took home their first Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic title since 2010.
“It’s really good for Corey (Blackwell) and for Vern, they’ve been here for so long and they’ve had to struggle the past few years,” Dunning said after receiving his MVP award. “They put a team together this year that can do really well, that can do big things.
“I think this is kind of just the start for what we’re going to see for the rest of the year.”
“These games, as I’ve gotten older, mean a lot more because you don’t know when your last one’s going to be,” Blackwell said with nostalgia.
The Millers are currently second in the Monroe Division with a league record of 8-4, behind Millstadt (15-3). They are scheduled to take on Fairview Heights in a doubleheader Sunday on the road.