Once an anchor on the Waterloo Millers pitching staff, Belleville native Mark Mueller helped send his former team into the losers bracket of the 43rd annual Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic on Friday at Borsch Memorial Park.
Thanks to some help from his batterymate, former major league pitcher Randy Wells, Mueller didnt allow a hit over the first 6 1/3 innings while teammate Dan Munoz hit a pair of home runs to lead the Rockies offense as Belleville opened the tournament with a 9-3 win.
After surviving a shaky first inning, in which he hit a pair of hitters with pitches and issued a walk to load the bases, Mueller was masterful.
Mixing his pitches, Mueller retired 18 consecutive hitters before Nick Dunnning ended the no-hit and shutout bid with solo homer with one out in the seventh inning.
Dunning and brother Justin Dunning hit back-to-back home runs in the ninth, before reliever Ryan Warnecke put the finishing touches on the Rockies win.
Anytime you can beat an outstanding team like Waterloo, which came in here with a 19-2 record and has the hitters they have, youve got to be satisfied, Mueller said. I didnt trust my pitches early, but having Randy (Wells) behind the plate was a big help.
He caught me in high school and then again in college, so we had worked together a lot of times when we were younger. He settled me down and helped me believe in my pitches today.
I felt good out there. I had a good fastball and kept it low in the zone. And from time to time, I managed to have a little pop on it.
Former Frontier League standout and Gateway Grizzlies coach Mike Breyman had a 4-for-5 performance with a pair of RBIs for Belleville, which moves into the semifinals, where it will play Cape Girardeau, Mo., at 2 p.m. today.
Cape Girardeau got a two-run double from Sean Bard to highlight a four-run seventh inning as the Capahas posted a 5-1 win over Fairview Heights.
Blake Slattery and Cody Heiserer added RBIs for Cape Girardeau. Sam Wahlig drove in the only run for Fairview Heights with an infield single in the first inning.
The other semifinal will pit the St. Louis Spikes against host Valmeyer at 4:30 p.m. The Spikes defeated Millstadt 6-5, while Valmeyer outlasted the St. Louis Printers 10-8.
Action resumes at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Borsch Park with consolation round play. The two semifinal winners will play for the title at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Muellers performance came as no surprise to Belleville manager Marcus Barriger, who said he felt good about the Rockies chances.
We had a plan coming in here and the starter in game one was going to be who had the hot hand. Mark (Mueller) had pitched well the last couple of weeks. Plus it was against his old team. He wanted this game. He was fun watch today, Barriger said. Offensively, with Munoz and Breyman and (Marty) Brunk and the rest of the guys in lineup is huge.
In any inning youre facing three or four of them, thats tough.
Munoz got Belleville on the scoreboard in the third, when he drove a curve ball from Waterloo ace John Auble over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead.
Breyman made it 4-0 in the fourth with a two-run single, before Munoz added a three run home run and Breyman followed with a solo shot in the ninth.
I was seeing the ball pretty well today, Munoz said. Two curve balls from two different pitchers. The second one, I didnt think was going to get out. If the center fielder had time to get back against the fence, I think he might have caught it.
This is a big win for us. Weve had trouble getting past the first game here, and so to be able to come out against Waterloo and hit a couple out and for us to win the ball game is pretty special.