Millstadt VFW leads the way in the Mon-Clair League

Millstadt has shocked the league in 2013 with their explosive offense, parting from their traditionally defensive ball club. Pictured, Tony Kossina steps up to the plate during Sunday’s doubleheader victories over Edwardsville, while Mitch Matecki looks on in the on-deck circle. (Teryn Schaefer photos)

Loaded with local talent that grew up playing ball in Millstadt, the VFW’s Mon-Clair League baseball team kept on pace this weekend with 9-1 and 6-1 victories over the Edwardsville Mavericks in Sunday’s league doubleheader at Mueth Field.

The Millstadt VFW seems like its traditional self, with local names gracing the roster, Mon-Clair legend “Tuffy” Mueth hanging out around the dugout, and long-time coach Norman “Shortie” Toenjes leading the team. But the VFW’s skipper will tell you the team has a bit of a different look — and he isn’t referring to their new uniforms.

“In the past it seems we have won pretty much on pitching and defense and hit enough to win,” Coach Toenjes explained. “This year we have a little more hitting in general.”

The hot-hitting Millstadt VFW leads not only the Monroe Division, but the entire league with a record of 13-3. And four of its batters are listed on the league’s top 10 hitters list: Jared Mueth of Millstadt (14 hits in 31 at-bats, .452 batting average); Kyle Stanton of O’Fallon, who just completed his senior season at Illinois State University (10- for-23, .435); Rob Beatty of Millstadt, who just completed his senior season with McKendree University (21-for-49, .429); and Mitch Matecki of Millstadt (17-for-42, .405).

“We’ve played well so far. We hit really well early and have kind of slowed down,” Toenjes said. “Pitching has been generally good. We have had a lot of guys hurt. Happy that we have played well with a lot of those guys out.”

Millstadt still has a sound pitching staff, as Sam Lidisky hurls one across the plate Sunday. He is among the league’s top 10 pitchers with an 1.39 ERA.

Mueth, who is third among the league’s batting leaders, is out due to a hand injury and Toenjes says he was hot at the plate at the time he got hurt. Alex Kollack of Dupo, who has consistently been one of Millstadt’s top pitchers, has been out, not even pitching an inning yet this season for VFW, and Kane Sweeney of Millstadt, who currently plays for Moorehead State University and is one of the team’s better hitters, just had surgery, according to Toenjes, who says their depth has been the team’s key factor with all the injuries.

“We have a lot of guys that can play and want to play,” Toenjes told the Republic-Times. “We’ve been able to pick up the slack. It seems like we’ve been getting a pretty good nine out there and our pitching has been good.”

Tony Kossina of Millstadt, who plays for McKendree Unversity, and Matecki hit high in the order for the VFW and are the core of Millstadt’s infield, while Toenjes says Luke Matecki, who just completed his senior year at the University of Missouri St. Louis and is also from Millstadt, has done well in center field for Millstadt. Toenjes also points to Beatty, who has been hitting well. In addition, Millstadt has welcomed Stanton, who has done well replacing one of their main guys from last year and is anticipated to be one of the VFW’s solid hitters.

With a mix of experienced players and depth stepping up to replace their current injured players, Millstadt is feeling pretty good about where they are — while pointing out there is still a lot of season left, with stiff competition to play.

“We have guys that will help us down the road,” Toenjes said. “But you have to be happy with what we are doing.”

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