If the Millstadt VFW fails to rally and win the final two games of its best of three series against the St. Louis Spikes in the Mon-Clair playoffs, it will remember Sunday at Whitey Herzog Field and the wasted opportunities.
Southpaw Jon Kars allowed two hits over the final five innings and Kevin Jett drove in the go-ahead run with a bases loaded walk as the the Spikes moved one win away from a second straight Mon-Clair League postseason ttile with a 4-1 win.
Millstadt, making its first championship series appearance since 2011, took a 1-0 lead in first inning on a run-scoring single by Mitch Matecki. But after leaving the bases loaded in the second inning and stranding five runners in its first two at-bats, it was Kars who was in the driver’s seat.
“We had some chances early with runners in scoring position and just couldn’t seem to get the big hit,’’ Millstadt manager Norm Toenjes said. “That’s the kind of pitcher he (Kars) is. If you don’t get to him early, you may not. He’s the kind of pitcher who gets better as the game goes on.”
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The win gives the Spikes (44-6) a leg up in the battle for the championship. Game Two is set for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Whitey Herzog Field. A win by Millstadt (20-9) would force a third and decisive third game later Monday night.
Millstadt, which ended the Cinderalla run of the Belleville Rockies with a come-from-behind 3-2 win in the semifinals earlier on Sunday, wasted little time in getting on the board against Kars.
Tony Kossina led off the game with a single, stole second base and scored when Mitch Matecki singled. The RBI was the second in as many at-bats for the Millstadt third baseman whose single in the seventh inning against Belleville drove in the winning run.
Millstadt then loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning, but Kars got out of the jam.
“Jon struggled a little bit early, but after the second inning he pitched great,” Spikes manager Keith Wallace said. “He was able to get ahead of the hitters and he mixed his pitches well. Offensively, we didn’t get a lot of hits. But we got a couple at the right time and scored enough runs.”
Millstadt, which got an outstanding pitching performance from Otto Roberts in its win over Belleville, got another solid effort from starter Alex Kollack against the Spikes. The big left-hander kept one of the best hitting teams in the Mon-Clair League scoreless from the first three innings by working slowly and mixing his pitches well.
“He (Kollack) gets to the opponents pyschologically more then anything else,” Toenjes said. “Tonight I thought he pitched very well. We just didn’t get the big hits. Actually our pitching the first three games of the tournament has been very good.”
The Spikes finally got to Kollack in the fourth when Chris Scoggins tied the game when he drove a single which scored Sean Keeney. Keeney led off the inning with a walk. Three batters later, Jett drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Spikes a 2-1 advantage.
St. Louis added two more runs in the sixth inning on a throwing error by Millstadt third baseman Mitch Matecki and a double by former Belleville West standout Cameron Lofton.
Here’s a look at games played earlier on Sunday:
Millstadt 3, Belleville 2
Matecki singled in Brian Lupa with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning as Millstadt completed the comeback win.
Belleville, getting an oustanding pitching peformance from Mark Mueller and RBI’s from Dan Munoz and Pat Miesner, led 2-0 after five innings but a two-run double by Rob Beatty in the sixth tied the game at 2 before Matecki won it with his clutch hit in the seventh.
The game was the final one for longtime Mon-Clair League standout Marcus Barriger, who is retiring after a 16-year career. Barriger is also retiring as the Belleville manager.
St. Louis Spikes 4, Valmeyer 3
Mike Luczak drove in Mike Tallis with a one-out single in the seventh as the Spikes got past the Lakers in the second semifinal. Valmeyer trailed 3-1 but tied the game on a two-run home run by Ben Thoma in the sixth inning before the Spikes pushed acorss the winning run in the last of the seventh inning.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.