Early Wednesday afternoon Millstadt VFW pitcher Brett Huber was in Nashville, Tenn., on a business trip.
Six hours later, Huber was tending to business with his strong right arm at Longacre Park
An Althoff High School graduate, Huber helped cap a historic night with a solid six inning outing as Millstadt VFW captured the Mon-Clair League championship with a 9-3 win over the St. Louis Spikes.
Needing a pair of wins Wednesday after losing the opening game of the best-of-3 championship series Sunday, Millstadt forced a third game earlier in the evening with a 7-2 win behind the pitching of Shane Hartwig and two RBIs apiece from Luke Matecki and Mitch Matecki.
The top-seeded Spikes grabbed a 2-0 after three innings in the third game, before Millstadt erupted for four runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take command and all but put away its first best-of-3 Monclair League championship.
The league went to a championship series in 1968.
“How old was I in 1968? I was 13,’’ Millstadt VFW manager Norm Toenjes said. “I’ve been around Millstadt baseball for a long time. I remember shagging foul balls when I was a kid and so to be able to win a league championship is pretty special.
“We didn’t really know what would happen tonight (Wednesday). We knew that Brett (Huber) was in Nashville today and Shane (Hartwig) was at Truman State (University). We didn’t know if they would be able to get back here in time. Fortunately for us, they both did and they both pitched great.’’
Huber, who along with teammate Rob Beatty, were chosen as the tournament co-most valuable players, arrived 20 minutes before the second game, which began at 9 p.m.
“I live in St. Louis, had a meeting in Nashville, then came back. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I wanted to be here for my teammates,’’ Huber said. “I didn’t have great command tonight. My main focus was to throw strikes and let the defense do the work. It’s been a long day. But it’s also been a very good day.’’
Getting RBIs from Mike Luczak and Sean Keeney, the Spikes scored single runs in two of the first three innings against Huber, who also stranded seven base runners in his six innings.
The dominant team in the Mon-Clair League all season and defending tournament champion Spikes were haunted by a lack of clutch hitting.
Against Hartwig in the opener, St. Louis left the bases loaded once and stranded a pair of runners three other times. They also had chances against Huber, but managed only five runs on 14 hits in 14 innings.
St. Louis also was guilty of four errors, three coming in the innings when Millstadt combined to score those eight runs.
“We made a few errors tonight, which is something we haven’t done much of all year. But that’s not what beat us,’’ Spikes manager Keith Wallace said. “What beat us was our inability to get hits with runners in scoring position. Especially in the first game, early we had chances to really take a big lead and we just failed to do it.
“We’ve had a very good year. But having it end like this really leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Give Millstadt credit. They came out and scores 16 runs and 25 hits tonight. They got big hits and we didn’t. That’s what it came down too.’’
Handcuffed by Spikes starter Pat Doyle through the first three innings of game two, Millstadt got a run back in the fourth before scoring four times in the fifth to take a 5-2 lead.
Beatty, who had eight hits in the playoffs, had the big hit with a two-run single.
The Spiked then unraveled in the sixth inning, committing two errors and reliever Corey Bradshaw forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk.
But the victory was a team effort as Brian Lupa, Cal Kossina, Ryan Rist and Tony Kossina all had big hits during the Millstadt VFW onslaught, while the Mateckis added run-scoring hits.
“We really came out and hit the baseball tonight, which is something we hadn’t been doing. Plus we got hits with runners in scoring position. That was great to see as well,’’ Toenjes said. “This was a great night for Millstadt baseball and I’m very proud of this baseball team.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.