VALMEYER — Like a pesky gnat at a Fourth of July picnic, the St. Louis Printers refused to go away Thursday at Borsch Memorial Park
John Bridges' infield single in the eighth inning drove in the go-ahead run and Lew Caradonna pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief to get the win as the St. Louis Printers stunned defending champion Millstadt 6-5 in the opening game of the 42nd annual Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic.
Millstadt, which ended a 33-year title drought when it won the 2012 championship, was breezing along with a 3-0 lead through five innings behind the pitching of Sean Hulse.
But the Printers, in the midst of a .500 season, scored two runs in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, then held off a Millstadt rally in the ninth to score the upset.
"It didn't look good for a while, but the guys kept fighting. When that happens, good things occur and they did for us today,'' Printers manager Tony Caradonna said. "We didn't do much early in the game against their starter (Hulse), but we were able to have some good at bats later on and we got a couple of key hits with runners in scoring position.
"I thought it was a great and exciting game to open the tournament.''
Millstadt, a Mon-Clair League best 15-3, entering the tournament, got RBIs from Tyler Muren, Mitch Matecki and Rob Beatty in the first five innings. But manager Norm Toenjes' team could have had an even bigger lead.
"They (the Printers) had three hits in the first inning and when we got out of that, I thought we were in good shape," Toenjes said. "We got a run here and a run there, but we just couldn't put enough hits together to where we would have a big inning.
"We've had a good season up to this point and I'm happy with where we are. I'd just like to see us do a couple of things better."
The Printers finally got to Hulse for two runs in the sixth, Matt Zeller driving in a run with a single and the second run scoring on an error, cutting the lead to 3-2.
John Guyer then tied it at 3-3 with a home run and Jaime Graeser gave the Printers the lead with a two-out single in the seventh.
A sacrifice fly from Millstadt's Brian Lupa tied the game in the bottom of the seventh, before the Printers took the lead in the top of the eighth.
Millstadt had one last chance in the ninth. Matecki led off with his fourth hit of the day, but pitcher Lew Caradonna speared Muren's line shot and turned it into a double play.
Tyler Burk cut the lead to 6-5 with an RBI single later in the inning, but Caradonna got the final out of the game to seal the victory.
The Printers move into the semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday, where they will take on Cape Girardeau.
Cape Girardeau 5, Belleville 3
Christian Cavaness broke a 3-all tie with a seventh inning run-scoring single as Cape Girardeau sent the Rockies into the losers' bracket.
Handcuffed by Cape Girardeau starter Steve Dooley and trailing 3-1, Belleville tied it in the fifth inning on back-to-back home runs from Mark Tampow and Dan Munoz.
But the Capahas reclaimed the lead against Rockies reliever Eric Shanahan in the seventh.
Taking over for starter Justin Clayton, Shanahan walked the first batter he faced then made an error while attempting to field a bunt by Jake Pewitt, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.
Jordan Kimball sacrificed both runners up a base and Cavaness followed with his go-ahead hit.
Kenton Parmley drove in an insurance run in the ninth and when Dooley got Munoz to flyout to end the game, the Capahas were in the semifinals.
Dooley finished with 14 strikeouts.
"The pitching was fine and we made a couple of errors, which hurt us. But the bottom line is that we're striking out too much and we're not getting big hits when we get runners in scoring position,'' Belleville manager Marcus Barriger said. "We hit three home runs today, and when that happens you expect the outcome to be different.
"Unfortunately for us, those home runs came with nobody on base. He (Dooley) was what the guys called sneaky fast and he was hiding the ball. His pitches were getting in on us pretty quick.''
Alex Siddle added a home run in the fourth for the Rockies, who will take on Millstadt in a losers' bracket game at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Action continues Saturday and Sunday, with the title game set for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.