The 48th annual Valmeyer Midsummer Classic at Borsch Park provided an entertaining three days of baseball over the July 4 holiday and pitted two regular tournament winners in the title game.
In the end, the mighty offense of the St. Louis Spikes proved too potent for the Waterloo Millers on Sunday. The Spikes won 15-8.
Waterloo won Midsummer Classic titles in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Spikes add this year’s top trophy to previous tourney wins in 2007, 2011 and 2014.
The Belleville Rockies, last year’s Midsummer Classic champion, won third place over the St. Louis Printers, 11-4.
July 4 action began with Waterloo edging the Millstadt Green Machine in a well-played contest, 3-2.
Matt Janocik singled, Mark Branz walked and Michael Jacobsen hit a bloop single to right for Millstadt in the top of the second. Jacob Wilson came through with an RBI hit to put the Green Machine up 2-0.
The Millers answered in the third inning when Zack Seiler singled, Trevor Davis was hit by a pitch and Ethan Ruff bunted both runners over. Logan Mueth’s grounder to third resulted in an errant throw to the plate, scoring one. Mitchell Krebs hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
The score remained 2-2 as both starting hurlers – Reid Hendrickson for Waterloo and former Miller Andrew Yancik for Millstadt – pitched masterfully through the middle innings.
In the eighth inning, Ruff singled and was bunted over to second before stealing third. Krebs came through with a solid single to right to score Ruff.
Hendrickson closed out the contest for the complete game victory.
On Saturday, Waterloo took on Belleville in a highly anticipated semifinal showdown. The Millers emerged victorious in a thriller, 6-5.
Belleville blasted Cape Girardeau, 13-3, on Thursday to set up the semifinal clash.
The game was tied 4-4 in the fourth inning, With Dan Munoz smashing a three-run home run in the third for the Rockies and Kade Burns coming through with a two-run double for the Millers in the fourth.
Mike Ward hit a leadoff homer in the third inning to put the Millers on the board.
The score remained tied until the eighth inning when Waterloo scored two runs on a wild pitch after both Jared Jones and Logan Mueth had singled.
Pat Gaul singled and scored in the top of the ninth, but Waterloo held on for the win.
Davis was solid in relief of lefty starter Grant Juesel for the Millers, allowing just two hits in three innings.
Burns went 3-for-3 on the day to lead Waterloo’s offense. Jones and Keegan Baxmeyer collected two hits apiece.
The final day of the tournament saw Waterloo locking horns with the Spikes for the championship. The Spikes downed the Valmeyer Lakers, 8-0 on Thursday and took down the Printers, 6-1, on Saturday to reach the title game.
Waterloo came out strong at the start, scoring three runs in the first inning. Ruff singled, stole second and third and scored on a single off the bat of Brad Dillenberger. Baxmeyer added a sac fly and then Jones homered.
The Spikes answered with two runs in the second, with an RBI single by Rob Hogenkamp being the key hit.
Then the bats started to heat up for the Spikes.
Lee Cruz – a former minor leaguer for the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros who is hitting .536 this summer in Mon-Clair League play – smashed a solo home run deep to left to make it a 3-3 game in the third.
Cruz struck again with a grand slam as part of a six-run sixth inning to put the Spikes up 9-3.
Waterloo battled back in its half of the sixth inning, scoring five runs to make it 9-8. A bases loaded walk was followed by a two-run double off the bat of Seiler. The Millers then scored twice on a wild throw to the plate.
But the Spikes offense simply could not be stopped on this day. St. Louis added three runs in the seventh inning and then Cie Arell smashed a solo homer in the eighth.
Arell struck again with a double – his fourth hit of the day – to give the Spikes the 15-8 score that would become the final.
Cruz, who went 8-for-13 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in the tourney, was named MVP of this year’s classic.
In the consolation game played early Sunday, Millstadt went up big before Valmeyer made an amazing comeback that fell just short in a 15-14 win for the Green Machine.
Regular season resumes
The Mon-Clair League schedule continues with afternoon doubleheaders this weekend. The games begin at 1:30 p.m.
Valmeyer (6-10) plays at Millstadt (8-6) and Waterloo (10-3) hosts the Printers (8-6) this Saturday.
Waterloo travels to Fairview Heights (9-5), Millstadt travels to Cape Girardeau (9-5) and Valmeyer plays at Belleville (11-3) on Sunday.
The Mon-Clair League All-Star Game is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17 at Whitey Herzog Field in Belleville, pitting the Monroe Division vs. the St. Clair Division.
Monroe Division All-Stars include Waterloo’s Ethan Ruff, Reid Hendrickson, Mitchell Krebs and Keegan Baxmeyer; Valmeyer’s John Wuelling, Matt Reinholz, Mitch Meyer and Mark Nappier; and Millstadt’s Tony Kossina, Dylan McEwen, Andrew Yancik and Cal Kossina.