It was a long time coming, but the Valmeyer Lakers are Monroe Division champions in the Mon-Clair League for the first time since 1976.
The Lakers (16-8) edged out the Waterloo Buds (15-9) and Millstadt Green Machine (15-9) in the division despite dropping both games of a Saturday doubleheader to the Belleville Rockies (11-13).
Valmeyer dropped game one to Belleville, 4-3, even though the Rockies were held to only three hits.
Jevon Boyd had a double and two RBIs and Columbia High School graduate Kyle McConachie went 1-for-3 with a run to provide enough offense for Rockies starter Anthony Green. He pitched a complete game with 10 strikeouts.
Logan Mueth, Ethan Ruff and Cole Juelfs each collected two hits for Valmeyer.
In game two, Belleville scored three runs in the sixth inning en route to a 7-4 victory. McConachie went 3-for-4 with three runs, Gibault grad Josh Papenberg collected two hits and both Boyd and Mike Hardin added two hits for the Rockies.
Kenny Otero had two hits for the Lakers.
Otero is hitting .411 with 22 RBIs and 17 runs to go along with a 4-2 pitching mark and 1.77 ERA to lead Valmeyer this summer.
Trevor Davis is hitting .394 with 19 runs and is 6-1 with a 1.77 ERA.
Jacob Rowold is hitting .362 with 21 runs.
Valmeyer will open the Mon-Clair League playoffs as the top seed and takes on the Cape Girardeau Capahas at 3 p.m. Saturday at SPPS Field in Waterloo.
Playing at noon this Saturday at home will be the Buds, who split with Millstadt on Saturday to close out the regular season. Waterloo will host the St. Louis Spikes.
In game one on Saturday, the defending league champion Green Machine plated two runs in the fifth inning and held on to down the Buds, 3-2.
Andrew Yancik pitched a complete game with five strikeouts for Millstadt, outdueling Waterloo’s Elijah Dale.
Colin Shea had a double and RBI to lead the Green Machine. Garrett Schlecht hammered a first-inning home run for the Buds.
In game two, Waterloo scored in the top of the seventh inning and won 3-2 over Millstadt.
Levi Ebersoldt pitched six solid innings before Nate Albrecht came on to save it for the Buds. Keegan Baxmeyer, Braedan Dobbs, Trey Kueper and Drew Reed all collected two hits each.
For Millstadt, Joey Kossina took the mound loss and went 2-for-3 with a double and RBI at the plate.
Dale leads the Waterloo pitching staff with a 4-0 record and 0.82 ERA. He has 41 strikeouts in 25 and two-thirds innings.
Albrecht is the top hitter for the Buds with a .477 average, 10 stolen bases and 32 runs. Dobbs is hitting .400 with 17 RBIs.
Millstadt ended its regular season Sunday with a make-up game against Belleville, falling 4-3.
Mark Mueller pitched six strong innings for the Rockies and McConachie went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Millstadt, which hosts the Southeast Missouri Tropics to open postseason play at noon Saturday, is led on the mound by Yancik. He is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA.
Any team hoping to take down the defending champs has to contain the offense of the Kossina brothers: Tony is hitting .398 with 23 runs; Joey is hitting .374 with 23 RBIs and 22 runs; Cal is hitting .354 with 17 runs.
The winners from Saturday’s games will play Sunday at Whitey Herzog Field in Belleville.
The best-of-three championship series is set to take place next Saturday and Sunday at Borsch Park in Valmeyer.