When his team needed him most, Millstadt VFW hurler Brendan Saak came to the rescue on Friday at the 44th annual Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic.
Saak held Belleville to four hits in the final 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief while Rob Beatty broke a 6-all tie with a run-scoring single in the seventh as Millstadt rallied for a 9-6 first-round win at Borsch Memorial Park.
Millstadt used home runs from Mitch Matecki and Beatty and got a key two-run single from Tony Kossina in the sixth after trailing the Rockies by margins of 4-0 and 6-4 early in the game.
Beatty then singled off of Belleville reliever Anthony Garza to drive in Jarod Mueth with the go-ahead run in the seventh as Millstadt took the lead for good.
“I really haven’t gone through the scorebook yet, but we had four players with two or more hits so we had good balance throughout our lineup. Plus we fell behind early and we kept battling,’’ Millstadt manager Norm Toenjes said. “Mitch (Matecki) got us going with that (two-run) home run and Rob (Beatty) had a big day as well.
“This is a good tournament and Belleville played well today. We’’re just happy to be moving on.”
Sam Lidisky and Beatty, who finished with four RBIs, drove in insurance runs in the eighth to make the score 9-6 and Saak worked out of a jam in the ninth as Millstadt moved into a semifinal at 2 p.m. on Saturday against the winner of the game between defending champion St. Louis Spikes and Cape Girardeau. A second semifinal will follow at 4:30 p.m.
The 44th annual Valmeyer Mid-Summer Classic concludes Sunday with three games. The title contest is set for 3:30 p.m.
Saak relieved Millstadt starter Otto Roberts and with Belleville holding a 6-4 lead. After striking out Patrick Meisner with runners on first and third in the fifth, Saak shutout the Rockies the rest of the way.
“I didn’t think Otto (Roberts) pitched poorly. He just got behind several hitters and his pitch count was getting up there,’’ Toenjes said. “Brendan (Saak) came in and did a great job. He mixed his pitches well and he got a head of the hitters.’’
Belleville started quickly against Roberts by scoring three runs in the second inning. Long one of the top hitters in the Mon-Clair League, Dan Munoz singled to lead off and scored the first run of the tournament on sacrifice fly by Chris Mathis.
The Rockies then added two more runs on a Millstadt error and when Mathis doubled in soon-to-be Frontier League Hall of Famer Mike Breyman with a double in the third, Belleville was up 4-0.
Breyman, who had three hits Friday, is the hitting coach for the Gateway Grizzlies.
Belleville veteran hurler Ryan Warnecke got through the first two innings before a two-out walk to Luke Matecki led to a pair of runs for Millstadt in the third.
Following the walk to Luke Matecki, Mitch Matecki took the next pitch well over the left-center field fence for a home run and cut the Rockies lead to 4-2.
One inning later it was Beatty’s turn, as after Lidisky singled to lead off, Beatty hit a high, towering fly ball which landed inches fair and just over the left-field fence, as Millstadt tied the game at 4.
A wild pitch and Mathis’ third RBI of the day ended the day for Roberts in the fifth as Belleville took its final lead at 6-4. But the Rockies also proved to be their own worst enemy.
Belleville was guilty of four errors and left seven men on base in the first six innings. But overall, Rockies manager Marcus Barriger was pleased at how Warnecke and Garza pitched against the hard-hitting Millstadt attack.
“We scored six runs, but we also let some scoring opportunties get away. Plus we gave them (Millstadt) a few extra chances with a few errors on defense,’’ Barriger said. “But Ryan (Warnecke), at 37 years old, went out and gave us what we needed with five good innings and I can’t fault the way (Anthony) Garza threw the ball today.
“We just made a couple of errors and they (Millstadt) capitalized.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.