One of the true gems in all of Monroe County, Borsch Memorial Park in Valmeyer is ready to shine once again this weekend at the 44th annual Valmeyer Mid-Summer Baseball Classic.
A centerpiece of the annual Fourth of July celebration, the Mid-Summer Classic will once again feature eight of the top amateur baseball teams in the area, a sand-volleyball tournament, games and contests for the kids, all kinds of food and beverages, live music and fireworks.
And most of all, everyone is hoping for three days of great rain-free baseball.
“The weather forecast says there is a chance of showers each day. We’re hoping the baseball gods look down up on us and give us three days of good weather,’’ Valmeyer manager Dennis Pieper said. “This is a big weekend for people around here. There is a lot of time put in preparing for this event. We’ve really worked hard to get the field ready and I’m telling you, it’s in great shape. Now we want to keep it that way.’’
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Play in the always popular Mid-Summer Classic begins Friday at 9 a.m. when Belleville takes on Millstadt. One of four first-round games set for Friday at Borsch Memorial Park, the Belleville-Millstadt game will be followed at 11:30 a.m. when the defending champion St. Louis Spikes battle Cape Girardeau.
The Spikes defeated Cape Girardeau in the title game a year ago.
The bottom half of the eight-team bracket will have perennial power Waterloo taking on Fairview Heights at 2 p.m. followed by a game between the host Valmeyer Lakers and the St. Louis Printers at 4:30 p.m.
Consolation round games are set for Saturday at 9 a.m and 11:30 a.m. with the first of two semifinals scheduled for 2 p.m. Tournament action concludes Sunday with games at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and the championship game at 3:30 p.m.
The tournament has reshuffled its first-round games with two of most noticeable moving perennial Mon-Clair League power and tournament contender Waterloo to the afternoon bracket. The Millers have usually played in the first game of the tournament..
“When we did the pairings we considered which teams would draw the most interest and bring out the larger crowds and put them in the times when we should have the most people out watching,’’ Pieper said. “Last year we had two very good teams in the finals in Cape (Girardeau) and the (St. Louis) Spikes, but we didn’t have as many people stick around for the championship game because you had two out of the area teams playing.’’
The Spikes are clearly the team to beat again this year.
Paced by the leading hitter in the Mon-Clair League in veteran Mike Tallis (.575) and two of the top pitchers in Jon Kars (4-0, 1.75 ERA) and Trae Lee (4-0, 2.90), the Spikes have won 14 of 16 league games and hold a five-game lead over Fairview Heights (11-7) in the St. Clair Division.
But the Spikes will be pushed by the likes of always strong Millstadt, Cape Girardeau, Waterloo, Fairview Heights, the St. Louis Printers, Valmeyer and Belleville.
“Clearly, the Spikes are the favorites this weekend. I believe they’ve only lost two games all year and they’ve obviously got a very good ballclub,’’ Pieper said. “But there are some other quality teams in this tournament. I think you’re got to look at Waterloo and then us (Valmeyer), then probably Cape (Giaradeau). But Fairview Heights always seems to play well here, Millstadt is strong and Belleville also has some very good players.
“I think it should be three great days of baseball.”
And if Pieper has his way, his Lakers will be in the title game.
Leading the Monroe Division at 12-6 with a narrow lead over Millstadt (11-5) and Waterloo (10-4), the Lakers got off to a slow start but have won 11 of 12 games recently. Included among that run was a rare non-league sweep of a three-game series in Cape Girardeau.
“I can’t remember the last time we went down there and won all thee games. We usually go 1-2 or sometimes we even get swept. But for the most part we’ve played very good baseball this season,’’ Pieper said. “Ben (Thoma) and Jeremiah (Bergheger) have really hit the ball well this season and then the young kids such as Mitch (Meyer) have really been swinging the bat well for us.
“The pitching has been solid and we’ve played extremely well defensively this year. Hopefully it will continue this weekend.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661