August 11, 2014

St. Louis Spikes blast Valmeyer to win Mon-Clair League playoffs

After a pair of near-misses the last two years, the St. Louis Spikes finally won a championship Monday at Whitey Herzog Field.

Lee Cruz and Chris Scoggins each drove in a pair of runs to highlight a six-run fourth inning uprising and the Spikes never looked back as they defeated Valmeyer 12-4 in the decisive third game of the Mon-Clair League playoffs.

Seeded sixth in the eight-team field, Valmeyer (24-20) trailed early but tied the game at 2 on a two-run home run by Justin Lilly in the top of the fourth inning.

But aided by a Valmeyer error that led to six unearned runs, the top-seeded Spikes (41-9) bounced right back in the bottom of the inning.

Also aided in the inning by a pair of wild pitches by Valmeyer starter Mike Wuelling, the Spikes took a 4-2 lead on a single by Sean Keeney.

Scoggins then increased the lead to 6-2 with a two-run single and when Cruz, the playoffs Most Valuable Player, hit a two-run home run, the Spikes were on the way to their first playoff championship since the 2008 season.

"Two years of waiting. Of getting to the finals and coming up short. To be able to win it this year is very special,'' Spikes coach Keith Wallace said. "Unlike yesterday (Sunday) when we gave away runs, today we got a few breaks on errors and we were able to take advantage of them. It was a total team effort.''

With Spikes starting pitcher Mike Sabatino and Wuelling each making their second starts in less then 48 hours, the score was tied at 2 until the Lakers' defense made a couple of crucial mistakes in the fourth inning.

"He (Wuelling) gave us what we wanted. He kept us in the game. We just started kicking the ball around a little bit,'' Lakers manager Dennis Pieper said. "If we were able to limit the damage in the one inning when they scored six runs, it might have been a 5-4 or 6-4 game late rather then 12-4. You approach the game differently when you are down one or two runs instead of six or eight.

"I'm proud of my team though. We have a lot of good young players -- college-age players -- who matured and played better and better as the season went on. We'll be back.

Matt Reinholtz cut the Lakers' deficit to 8-3 with an RBI in the fifth inning. But keyed by a three-run home run from Scoggins in the bottom of the inning, the Printers scored four more runs to take a 12-4 lead.

Sabatino, a Wood River High School graduate, worked 4 1/3 innings for St. Louis to get the win. Veteran Kit Crooks got a save.

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