In a thrilling ending to a unique Mon-Clair League season, the Belleville Rockies dethroned the defending champion Millstadt Green Machine in an epic extra-inning title game at Valmeyer on Sunday.
It was the Rockies’ second playoff championship in three seasons and fifth overall. In fact, Belleville and Millstadt have faced off for the league title two straight years.
On Saturday, Belleville advanced to the championship by downing the Valmeyer Lakers, 5-1, in the first round before upsetting the undefeated Cape Girardeau Capahas, 4-1, to end the day.
Belleville’s Mike Krumm pitched a complete game in the win over Valmeyer.
Rockies southpaw David Llorens stymied the Cape Girardeau offense, surrendering just three hits in six innings with seven strikeouts. The Capahas stranded the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings.
Millstadt defeated Fairview Heights, 4-0, in the first round Saturday and then the St. Louis Printers, 11-1, Sunday to reach the championship game.
As reported last week, the Waterloo Millers opted out of the playoffs due to COVID-19 concerns.
In the title game, Belleville held a 6-3 lead in the fourth inning when Millstadt mustered a rally.
Rockies manager Jim Thompson and one of his players were ejected following a controversial call, and tempers began to flare between the teams as they shared unpleasantries on the diamond.
Cooler heads prevailed, however, and it was back to baseball.
Millstadt’s Austin Francis blasted his second home run of the game and third of the playoffs to give the Green Machine a 9-6 edge after four innings.
Belleville veteran Dan Munoz responded with a two-RBI single in the fifth to make it a 9-8 contest.
Another Rockies veteran, Jevon Boyd, singled past Millstadt shortstop Tony Kossina in the sixth to tie the game at 9-9.
The game went into extra innings, and the Rockies went ahead in the eighth after Boyd smacked another RBI single. Another run scored after Millstadt second baseman Cal Kossina let a slow roller trickle under his glove, so Belleville led 11-9.
Kossina made up for his gaffe by blasting a dramatic two-out, two-run homer to right in the bottom of the eighth to tie it again, much to the delight of numerous Green Machine fans watching from throughout the grounds at Borsch Park.
The final fireworks came from Belleville, however.
Longtime Rockies slugger Mike Breyman led off the top of the ninth with a towering shot just left of the rightfield foul pole to put Belleville up 12-11.
That was followed by a solo home run off the bat of catcher James Simms to make it 13-11.
Millstadt was unable to mount a response this time, stranding runners on first and second base to give the Rockies the title.
Breyman was named MVP of the playoffs after going 8-for-11 in three games – including the go-ahead homer for the championship.
Krumm pitched the final two innings of relief against Millstadt to earn yet another playoff win.
See photos from the championship game by clicking here.