Justin Dunning looks on. (Greg Stanek photo)
The Waterloo Millers played two extra-inning games Sunday against the Belleville Rockies at SPPS Field, splitting the doubleheader.
Waterloo’s game one win, combined with Millstadt losing the first game of their doubleheader with Valmeyer, locked up the Monroe Division of the Mon-Clair League for the Millers.
In two very close battles, the Millers sought revenge against the team that knocked them out of the championship bracket of the Midsummer Classic earlier this month.
Former Millers pitcher Mark Mueller, now playing for Belleville, and Waterloo’s Andy Galle locked horns in a classic pitchers duel that ended up lasting 10 innings.
The Rockies jumped out to an early lead on a first inning home run, but Waterloo answered back in the bottom of the inning. Jake Frierderich doubled and scored on a single from L.J. Watson to tie the game 1-1.
The Rockies took the lead in the third on a single to right with runners on first and second to go up 2-1. Waterloo would tie the game again in the fifth on a double from Watson, scoring Craig Ohlau all the way from first.
Waterloo (19-3) finally broke through in the 10th inning, loading the bases on a Watson triple and two intentional walks to bring Brad Dillenberger to the plate. With the infield playing in to cut down the winning run at the plate, Dillenberger hit a screamer to third. As the third baseman turned to throw home, he slipped and Watson scored to give the Millers an exciting 3-2 win.
John Auble came on in relief in the eighth inning to pick up the win.
“It was long. It was a good battle back and forth. Mueller was throwing strikes, we just couldn’t get anything to bust through the holes. It was just a great pitchers duel between Galle and Mueller,” Watson said after the game. “Getting runners on base was really important in those late innings. We kind of forced their hand a bit.”
The second game proved to be more of the same.
Belleville jumped out early again on a home run in the first to go up 2-0. The Millers came back with a monster third inning, highlighted by Frierderich’s two-run homer to left as Waterloo opened up a 4-2 lead.
Waterloo starter Brandon Musso got into some trouble in the fifth, loading the bases twice. Musso was mostly able to pitch his way out of it, but not before the Rockies tied the game at 4-4.
Belleville went up 5-4 in the seventh on Mike Breyman’s second home run of the game.
Waterloo answered right back in the bottom of the inning. Frierderich singled, then stole second. He advanced to third on a deep fly out to right and scored on a passed ball to tie the game 5-5 and send the game into extra innings.
But Belleville blew the game open in extras, scoring four runs to take a 9-5 win.
“We had our opportunities to win and we didn’t get the job done. There were some very questionable calls but a base hit would have solved that problem,” Millers coach Vernell Moehrs said after game two. “We made some mistakes and they made some mistakes, and there were lots of good plays. Blake Meyer came in and did a great job in relief for us.”
In other Mon-Clair League action, Millstadt VFW (14-8) traveled to Valmeyer (10-12) on Sunday to play two at Borsch Memorial Park, looking to keep its slim hopes alive for the division.
The Lakers took game one from the VFW, 2-1, ending any chance of catching Waterloo for the division title. Millstadt is five games back with only four games left in the regular season.
Millstadt bounced back to take game two, 6-4.
Columbia (6-16) played two at home on Sunday, splitting with the O’Fallon Blaze (5-17).
The Saints dropped a close game one, 3-1, then bounced back to shut out the Blaze 3-0 in game two.
Next up, the Mon-Clair All-Stars will face the Clinton County All-Stars at GCS Ballpark in Sauget on Wednesday, July 23. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
This Sunday, the Valmeyer Lakers play at Columbia for two games starting at 1:30 p.m.
Also on Sunday, Waterloo travels to Millstadt for a Sunday doubleheader.