Always one of the premier Fourth of July events in the metro-east, the Valmeyer Mid-Summer Baseball Classic will have even more meaning than usual when first-round action begins on Saturday at Borsch Memorial Park.
In addition to the some of the top amateur baseball teams in the Midwest showcasing their talent, fireworks, live entertainment, sand volleyball tournaments and a parade will take place during the three-day celebration which will also include events honoring the 200th anniversary of Monroe County.
“This is always a big weekend for Valmeyer and for Monroe County and with this being the 200th anniversary of the county, there will be events celebrating that as well as what we usually have for the tournament,” Valmeyer manager Dennis Pieper said. “With the good baseball and everything that is planned it should be a great three-day weekend. Now all we need is for the weather to cooperate.
“The forecast for the weekend is not great. But we’re hopeful.”
The 45th annual Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic begins on Saturday morning when defending tournament champion Waterloo takes on the St. Louis Printers at 9 a.m. The Millers, managed by the legendary Vern Moehrs, defeated Millstadt VFW 8-7 in the title game a year ago.
Millstadt will play Cape Girardeau, (Mo.) at 11:30 a.m. in the second game and will be followed at 2 p.m. when St. Clair Division-leading Fairview Heights plays Belleville.
Host Valmeyer then closes out the first day of action at Borsch Memorial Park when it plays the St. Louis Spikes at 4:30 p.m. Action resumes on Sunday with the consolation semifinals at 9 and 11:30 a.m. followed by the two championship bracket semifinals at 2 and 4:30 p.m.
The consolation final will be played at 10 a.m. on Monday followed by the third-place game at 12:30 p.m. and the title contest at 3:30 p.m.
Wide open title chase
Waterloo (12-4) and Fairview Heights (11-5) lead their respective divisions at the midway point of the rugged Mon-Clair League season, but neither the Millers or the Redbirds have dominated the competition.
Waterloo, led by the always crafty Moehrs, has a balanced offense which has been paced by Lucas Wetzler (.414 average), while Jeremy Rettig leads a deep Millers pitching staff with a 3-1 record and 2.96 ERA in just over 28 innings of work.
The Millers could have their hands full in the opener against a Printers squad that features one of the top pitchers in the league in Zach Gronek.
Gronek enters the tournament with a microscopic 0.40 ERA and has allowed only two earned runs in 35 innings of work. Gronek is 4-1 in Mon-Clair league action.
Fairview Heights is led by former Freeburg standout Rob Blumberg. Long one of the top amateur players in the Mon-Clair League, Blumberg is third in the league in hitting with a .472 average
Among the other teams to watch this weekend are Millstadt which features three of the top 10 hitters in the tournament in Tony Kossina (.444), Cal Kossina (.441) and Zack Skaer (.414). Defending Mon-Clair League champion St. Louis Spikes are always dangerous and still have one of the best pitchers in the Mon-Clair League in Jon Kars.
Host Valmeyer is only 7-9 in league play and have been inconsistent according to Pieper.
“At times we’ve played pretty well and at others we’ve struggled, especially on the defensive end of the game,” Pieper said. “It all depends on which team shows up. If we play we can, we’ve got a chance.”